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The Party Line is dedicated to examining regional issues and policies through the figures who give shape to them. These are critical, complex, and even downright confusing times we live in. There’s a lot to navigate nationally and in the Carolinas; whether it’s elections, debates on gay marriage, public school closings, or tax incentives for economic development. The Party Line’s goal is to offer a provocative, intelligent look at the issues and players behind the action; a view that ultimately offers the necessary insight for Carolina voters to hold public servants more accountable.

Breaking Down Trump's Domination Of SC GOP Primary

Michael Bitzer
Michael Bitzer

Some thoughts following both the Nevada Democratic caucus and the South Carolina Republican primary appear to show a clearer sense of where things are headed in the presidential battles.

For Hillary Clinton’s campaign, coming off a thumping in New Hampshire’s primary, Clinton needed the first state where minority voters would be influential, and she managed to achieve that in Nevada.

Sanders’ lamenting that his loss was due to ‘voter turnout’ shows a campaign that isn’t fully developed — that’s the entire point of these contests — and having the ground game and operation to promote and turn out voters is fundamental.

Moving ahead for the Democrats, with the superdelegates gathering behind Clinton and the Super Tuesday primaries seeming to lend her the advantage, we may start to see the culmination of Clinton’s long road to claiming the nomination.

The more fascinating contest was in South Carolina on the Republican side. First and foremost, it was a decisive Trump win. He won 44 of the 46 counties, claiming a 10 percentage point advantage over the battle for number two and three, and ultimately claiming all 50 of the state’s delegates. that’s ultimately the name of the game when it comes to the presidential nomination contest.

In looking at exit polls, some notable trends stand out: Among those with a high school education or some college education, Trump dominated these groups in receiving their votes (45 and 40 percent, respectively). Even among college graduates, Trump came in first with 29 percent, to Rubio’s second place with 24 and Cruz at 21.

Only those with a post-college education did Trump come in second with 20 percent support to Rubio’s 32 percent.

Trump dominated among different income levels as well, with 34 percent among those making under $50,000 and those from $50-100,000 in income.  He claimed the lead among both self-identified Republicans and independents, and those who consider themselves ‘somewhat conservative’ and ‘moderate’; Cruz, with 35 percent, earned the ‘very conservative’ vote, with Trump at 29 and Rubio at 19.

With two-thirds of the primary electorate identified as white evangelical or born-again Christian, Trump led with 34 percent of their vote, much to the dismay and courting by Cruz, who came in second within this group at 26. The heartening aspect for Cruz are those voters who believe that “shared religious beliefs matter a great deal’ (43 percent of the electorate) went for Cruz at 32, while Trump received 27 percent of that support.


One of the most interesting and telling questions from the exit poll was the 'top candidate quality.’ Among those who said ‘electability,’ Marco Rubio claimed 47 percent.

Among those who said ‘shares my values,’ Ted Cruz won with 34 percent.

And those who believe a candidate should ‘tell it like it is’ and ‘can bring about change,’ Trump won overwhelmingly, with 78 and 45 percent in each category.

This basically sums up what the nomination battle has become, conceivably a three-man race based on electability, shared values, and wanting change.

The second major event in the SC GOP primary was Jeb Bush’s decision to suspend his campaign that night, thus ending the notion that South Carolina, unlike for his father and his brother, is Bush Country.

Finally, the closeness of Rubio-Cruz was something that was hinted at in the polls, but where do both go in terms of sighting their next targets? While John Kasich is hedging his bets that he can fly under the radar until the Michigan primary on March 8, the media attention that will follow what appears to be a three-man GOP race will focus on who goes after which candidate.

Does Cruz go after Rubio, leaving Trump to continue to ride high? Do Rubio and Cruz go after Trump to try and take the front-runner down? Who makes the play for what little support Jeb Bush had, and more importantly, his donors?

Already, you are starting to see the endorsements of Republican elected officials line up behind Rubio; that could be the early signal that, with the field substantially narrowed, the endorsements are giving the signal that Rubio is the rallying point for the party’s establishment.

Even though there are contests between now and March 1, the next big test on both sides are the SEC/Super Tuesday primaries, which will be the real test of whether both party’s frontrunners have the momentum to continue building their delegate leads to the magic numbers.

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