Donald Trump did more than win his second easy victory in consecutive presidential primaries in South Carolina on Saturday.
He advanced his takeover of the Republican Party. He proved that he can dominate a race in the Deep South. He vanquished the dynasty that ruled the GOP establishment for decades as Jeb Bush dropped his White House bid.
And in the process, Trump left no doubt that he is the GOP’s national front-runner and has the most credible path to capture the party’s nomination.
Clinton wins Nevada
In Nevada’s Democratic caucuses, meanwhile, Hillary Clinton deployed an intricately built organizational machine to register a much needed and stabilizing victory over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, slowing her rival’s surge following his stunning rout in the New Hampshire primary.
Her victory, and the looming Democratic South Carolina primary next week in which she is a favorite, doesn’t mean the end for the more liberal Sanders, against whom she seems fated to fight in long war of attrition. But it was Clinton’s best night for weeks in a crisis-scarred campaign and indicated her firewall of minority voters is still intact and raises the chances that she will eventually claim the nomination — and head on to a possible battle for the ages between her own establishment political dynasty and Trump.
At 11:30 p.m. ET with 99% of the vote counted in the Republican primary, Trump was in the lead at 32.5%, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in an effective tie on 22.5% and 22.3% respectively. Bush trailed in fourth at 7.9% just ahead of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
On the Democratic side, with 88% of the vote counted, Clinton held an unassailable lead with 52.6% compared to 47.4% for Sanders.
Of course, both parties have awarded only a small portion of the delegates that will ultimately be needed to clinch the nomination.
But as he addressed supporters on Saturday night, Trump seemed to appreciate something had changed.
“Let’s put this thing away,” Trump roared.
For so much of the wild 2016 campaign, the conventional wisdom suggested that Trump, running a campaign based on insults, vague vows to Make America Great Again and laboring under a questionable conservative pedigree, will fade.
But after his two massive primary wins, that’s no longer the case.
South Carolina, after all, has long prided itself on picking Republican nominees. It has handed victory to the eventual Republican standard bearer every cycle since 1980 — with the exception of Newt Gingrich in 2012.
And Trump can now bask in the fact that every Republican who has won both New Hampshire and South Carolina has gone on to claim the nomination.