Trump Wins South Carolina; Rubio Narrowly Beats Out Cruz For Second

Feb 21, 2016
Originally published on February 22, 2016 12:04 am
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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. In the Republican primary in South Carolina yesterday, a resounding victory for Donald Trump and a virtual tie for second place between Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. For another candidate, the one-time presumptive front-runner, it was the end. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea wraps up an eventful night.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: If Donald Trump had been looking over his shoulder, he didn't show it. In the past week, his commanding lead in South Carolina polls had narrowed - dramatically. People were wondering if he'd fade come Election Day like he did in Iowa - but in the end, a 10-point win. Trump congratulated the other candidates and said there's nothing easy about running for president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: It's tough. It's nasty. It's mean. It's vicious. It's beautiful.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: When you win, it's beautiful. And we're going to start - we are going to start winning for our country.

GONYEA: But the real fight last night was for second place between Rubio and Cruz. The lead changed hands back and forth as the votes came in. When Rubio spoke to supporters, his final finish was unknown. Still, it was clear it was a good night for him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARCO RUBIO: After tonight, this has become a three-person race, and we will win the nomination.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: Rubio has yet to win a state, but he can claim to be the strongest among those trying to consolidate what's been called the establishment vote, the support of those not seeking an outsider such as Trump or Cruz. Last night, Rubio made his usual generational appeal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUBIO: Ronald Reagan made us believe that it was morning in America again - and it was.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: You do, too.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yeah.

RUBIO: Well, now, the children of the Reagan revolution...

(CHEERING)

RUBIO: ...Are ready to assume the mantle of leadership.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERING)

GONYEA: Ultimately, Rubio did get second place, just barely edging out Cruz, who once had hoped to win here. Still, the Texan remains in the top tier of candidates with a solid organization, lots of cash and a message.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TED CRUZ: Indeed, the screaming you hear now from across the Potomac...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Oh, yeah.

CRUZ: ...Is the Washington cartel in full terror that the conservative grassroots are rising up.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: The road continues, also, for Ohio Governor John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson. They finished at the bottom of the pack but will keep going, which brings us to Jeb Bush, last night's fourth-place finisher who leaves the race looking like a candidate from another era. He choked up as he spoke.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEB BUSH: The people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken, and I really respect their decision. So tonight, I am suspending my campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: No.

BUSH: Yeah, yeah.

GONYEA: Rubio and Cruz both praised Bush, but Trump made no mention of him in his remarks. Trump did, however, address the notion that a shrinking GOP field hurts his prospects.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: A number of the pundits said, well, if a couple of the other candidates dropped out - if you add their scores together, it's going to equal Trump.

(BOOING AND JEERING)

TRUMP: Right? These geniuses - they're geniuses. They don't understand that, as people drop out, I'm going to get a lot of those votes also.

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: You don't just add them together.

GONYEA: Confident as ever, Trump is defying polls showing he is highly disliked by supporters of other candidates. That's what Rubio and Cruz hope to capitalize on while they slug it out to be Trump's last rival.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Columbia, S. C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.