With a little over a quarter of the ballots in, Donald Trump has won the South Carolina GOP primary with 33% of the vote.
At the moment, Ted Cruz has a narrow edge over Marco Rubio (22.2% to 21.3%).
Jeb Bush edges John Kasich for fourth place (8.3% to 7.6%) with Ben Carson bringing up the rear at 6.6% of the vote.
It is the biggest win to date for Trump as he will capture all 38 delegates.
The question from here is whether the anti-Trump forces will coalesce around a single candidate.
At this point, both Rubio and Cruz can make a legitimate claim to be viable alternative. But I would tend to think that if Bush and Carson drop out most of their vote will go to Rubio. Despite Bush’s attacks on Rubio, his voter universe would be closer to Rubio than to Cruz particularly in Florida. Ditto for John Kasich (who is staying despite not going anywhere). While Carson’s voter universe would be closer to Cruz, I suspect many of them haven’t forgiven Cruz for his shenanigans in Iowa. As such, the only candidate who I think could thwart Trump’s momentum is Rubio. But time is short.
UPDATE: With 99% of the vote in, Trump earned 32.5% of the vote. It was good enough for a double digit over Marco Rubio who narrowly finishes ahead of Ted Cruz (22.5% to 22.3%) while Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Ben Carson nearly tied for fourth (7.8% to 7.6% to 7.2%).
So two-thirds of all Republicans voted for a candidate other than Trump. But therein lies the problem. There are too many candidates in the field and as a result the anti-Trump vote is diluted. Hopefully the herd will be thinned in the next day or so.
UPDATE II: This thinning process began with Jeb Bush’s departure from the race which I wrote about here.