- Associated Press - Saturday, February 20, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The Latest on voting in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary (all times local):

10:45 p.m.

The turnout for Saturday’s Republican presidential primary smashed both the number of people who voted in 2012 and the expected number of voters this year.

More than 735,000 people cast ballots in the election, easily surpassing the 650,000 that some experts were predicting including State Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore.

Just over 600,000 voted in the Republican presidential primary four years ago.



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9:50 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is highlighting his Iowa win over Donald Trump on Feb. 1 as he urges conservatives to unite behind him against the Republican front-runner.

Cruz says that there is “only one strong conservative is in a position to win this race,” adding that it’s why Donald Trump “relentlessly attacks us and ignores the other candidates.”

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9:40 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says his campaign is the only one that “has beaten and can beat” billionaire Donald Trump, who won the South Carolina primary.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters in Columbia, South Carolina at the close of the state’s Republican primary day, Cruz warned that the “Washington cartel” is growing nervous with the successes of the conservative movement.

Cruz says he is “effectively tied for second place” with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, in a finish that he said defied expectations.

Cruz is praising Jeb Bush, who ended his bid for the White House Saturday, as “a man who didn’t go to the gutter” and engage in insults and attacks.

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9:18 p.m.

Donald Trump is thanking his supporters for delivering a commanding first-place finish in South Carolina Saturday, cementing his status as the Republican presidential front-runner.

And he’s predicted big wins in the races ahead.

“Folks, let’s go, let’s have a big win in Nevada…Let’s put this thing away,” he tells hundreds of screaming supporters at a victory party in a Spartanburg. “And let’s make America great again.”

Trump also offered his congratulations to rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are in a tight race for second place, drawing boos from the crowd. “Just one minute, come on, one second, alright?” he urged them, as he explained how tough it is to run.

But Trump notably made no mention of Jeb Bush, who announced he is suspending his campaign earlier in the evening. Trump has hammered Bush throughout the campaign.

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9:15 p.m.

Marco Rubio says the Republican presidential primary has become a three-person race between himself, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

The Florida senator is predicting that he will win the GOP nomination after performing well in the South Carolina primary. As results stream in, Rubio and Cruz are fighting for second place behind winner Trump.

Rubio is congratulating Trump for his victory in South Carolina’s primary. He’s also praising former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who dropped out after a disappointing finish in South Carolina.

Rubio is returning to his central campaign themes of a strong U.S. military and a new generation of conservatism. He says tonight he’s a step closer to being the next president.

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9:10 p.m.

Donald Trump’s wife is breaking her usual silence and talking up his candidacy after he won the South Carolina Republican primary.

Melania Trump tells Trump supporters that “he loves you.” She says they are going ahead to the next contest in Nevada and will see what happens.

She says her husband will “be the best president.”

The Slovenian-born former model is occasionally spotted with her husband on the campaign trail but rarely gives any lengthy remarks.

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8:45 p.m.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he is ending his bid for the White House.

A teary-eyed Bush says he’s proud of the campaign he ran to unify the country and advocate conservative solutions.

The son and brother of former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush entered the race to huge expectations in June, and quickly fueled them with fundraising.

But he quickly slid in the polls behind some of his more outspoken Republican rivals such as billionaire businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who have billed themselves as anti-establishment alternatives to the early front-runner.

Following disappointing performances in both Iowa and New Hampshire, Bush pinned his hopes on South Carolina, a state where the Bush name has maintained some clout. But Bush was unable to break into the top three in South Carolina. He would likely have faced pressure from GOP leaders and donors to drop out had he stayed in the race.

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8:30 p.m.

The final results aren’t in, but John Kasich’s campaign is already claiming victory in the so-called “governor’s bracket.”

Kasich’s chief strategist John Weaver says in a statement that the race will now be a four-man contest between Kasich, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. His comments are similar to ones he made this morning on a conference call with reporters.

Despite Weaver’s declarations of victory, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush remains in the race and it’s still unclear whether Kasich will beat him in the South Carolina contest.

Kasich’s supporters are gathered at a hotel in Wakefield, Massachusetts, the state where Kasich spent Saturday campaigning rather than remaining in South Carolina.

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8:15 p.m.

It’s been a night mostly lacking of cheers or applause at the Ted Cruz South Carolina victory party.

The room remained only about half-full Saturday as results came in showing their candidate locked in a tight battle for second place in the state’s Republican primary with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Cruz backers stood quietly and watched footage being broadcast on two large screens from Rubio’s party, where his supporters were shown chanting “Marco! Marco!”

The only brief moment of awakening for the otherwise cautious Cruz supporters came when Fox News broadcast a live shot from his party, prompting cheers from the crowd.

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7:55 p.m.

Donald Trump has won a majority of the delegates in the South Carolina primary - and he has a chance to take them all.

Trump will win at least 38 of the 50 delegates at stake.

South Carolina Republicans award delegates for being the statewide winner as well as for winning individual congressional districts.

More votes are needed in individual congressional districts to award the final 12 delegates.

Trump leads the overall race for delegates with 55. Ted Cruz has 11 delegates, Marco Rubio has 10, John Kasich has five, Jeb Bush has 4 and Ben Carson has three.

It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination for president.

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7:40 p.m.

Donald Trump has won the South Carolina Republican primary, a second-straight victory for the billionaire real estate mogul after his first-place finish in New Hampshire.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are in close race for second.

Exit polls taken in South Carolina found that about three-quarters of Republican voters support a temporary ban on Muslims who are not American citizens from entering the United States. That’s one of Trump’s signature proposals.

A majority of voters looking for an outsider candidate supported Trump, providing a boost to the first-time candidate for office.

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7 p.m.

Polls have closed in South Carolina for the Republican presidential primary in a day of smooth voting and heavy turnout in some places.

Party leaders predicted turnout would be bigger than the just over 600,000 voters who cast ballots in the 2012 GOP primary.

The race was too close to call when the polls closed.

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6:10 p.m.

About four in 10 South Carolina Republican primary voters say that an important quality in a candidate is that they “shares my values.”

A poll conducted by voters in Saturday’s primary showed that being an instrument of change and electability in November are also important qualities.

The voters are split on whether the next president should be an outsider or a member of the political establishment. Nearly half said they prefer someone who has experience in politics and about the same numbers would rather see someone from outside the political establishment.

Four in 10 voters see the campaign of Donald Trump as most unfair, and a third said that of Texas Sen. Cruz’s campaign. Less than 10 percent selected Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or John Kasich.

The survey was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research with voters leaving 35 randomly selected precincts throughout South Carolina.

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6:05 p.m.

For South Carolina Republican primary voters, terrorism is the top issue that mattered - selected by about a third.

The economy and government spending were each picked by nearly three in 10. Even so, three-quarters of the voters said they were very worried about the direction of the nation’s economy, and more than 4 in 10 said billionaire Donald Trump would be best at handling the economy.

However, Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are both seen as candidates who would best handle an international crisis by about a quarter of voters.

Only about 10 percent selected immigration as the most important issue. Asked specifically what should be done with illegal immigrants working in the United States, the voters were evenly divided. Republican voters were far less divided on the issue of allowing Muslims into the country. About three-quarters support a temporary ban on Muslims who are not American citizens from entering the United States.

The survey was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research with voters leaving 35 randomly selected precincts throughout South Carolina.

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5:55 p.m.

John Kasich says if he spent the day in South Carolina he’d be doing nothing more than yelling at people on their way into the polls saying “Hey, vote for me.”

With that in mind, he’s campaigning in Massachusetts and Vermont instead. The two states hold primaries on March 1.

“If somebody yelled at me as I was going to the polls, I’d vote against them,” he joked with reporters after a town hall in Worcester, Massachusetts.

He says he wishes he could have spent more time in South Carolina, but that he and his team “did everything we could do.”

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5:45 p.m.

Voting continues to be smooth in South Carolina.

State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said no major problems had been reported across the state in Saturday’s Republican presidential primary voting.

Whitmire says it’s too early to say if turnout had reached record numbers. But he did say that about 59,000 absentee ballots had been returned, more than twice the number in the last primary election in 2012.

Whitmire said voting had been steady in most places and heavy in others, but he said there were no problems like broken voting machines or inordinately long lines.

Whitmire also said he wouldn’t be surprised if Saturday’s voting numbers surpassed other recent years. He said turnout was 19.5 percent in the 2012 GOP primary, and 21 percent in 2008.

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4:20 p.m.

While state officials predict a record turnout of as many as 650,000 voters in the Republican presidential primary, one of the factors helping to keep voting lines short is the record number of absentee ballots that were returned this year.

About 59,000 absentee ballots have been returned, compared to 27,000 four years ago.

State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said possible reasons for the sharp increase in absentee voting include campaign efforts to get voters to vote absentee, more awareness of how to do it because of the Internet and social media, early voting in neighboring states influencing people in South Carolina to vote early with absentee ballots and the desire to skip long lines on the day of the election.

2:40 p.m.

Although only six Republican candidates are still vying for the GOP presidential nomination in Saturday’s voting in South Carolina, voters are seeing twice as many names on the ballot.

There were 12 candidates in the race when the ballot was finalized and absentee ballots distributed early last month, but since then six presidential hopefuls have dropped out.

While signs at polling places tell voters that those candidates are no longer running, people can cast their ballots for them just the same.

The State Election Commission says that it will report only vote totals for the six remaining candidates on Saturday night. However, votes for all the candidates appearing on the ballot will still be counted.

12:40 p.m.

There have been a few primary-day glitches, but no problems affecting the actual vote as South Carolinians vote in the GOP presidential primary.

State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire says in one voting place in Florence County, poll workers couldn’t immediately get the voting machines up and running and so voters used paper ballots for a time.

He said the commission has also fielded questions about the law on campaign workers approaching people at the polls. Under state law you can’t distribute or display campaign material within 200 feet of the polls. But that doesn’t mean campaign workers can’t simply talk to voters closer to the polls.

Whitmire says that the commission received reports that some Mount Pleasant voters complained about campaign workers talking to them and the poll managers asked those workers to stay back 200 feet.

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12:15 p.m.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has cast her vote for Marco Rubio in the Republican presidential primary

Haley voted late Saturday morning at her precinct at Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church in Lexington. Her vote for Rubio was no surprise after she endorsed the U.S. senator from Florida earlier this week.

Haley told reporters she was happy because the weather was perfect and people were excited to be voting.

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11:45a.m.

John Kasich’s presidential campaign is already claiming a victory of sorts in South Carolina.

A top strategist, John Weaver, tells reporters that however the Republican candidate does in Saturday’s primary, Kasich’s showing will be enough to “drive somebody else out of the race.”

Weaver says he’s expecting two candidates to drop out over the next week - including Jeb Bush. Weaver says that “for all practical purposes, there’s no path forward” for the former Florida governor.

Kasich finished second in the New Hampshire primary, but the expectations are lower for his performance in South Carolina.

The Ohio governor hasn’t ignored South Carolina, but he has focused resources on states in the Midwest and Northeast that host contests in March.

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11:30 a.m.

Most of the presidential candidates will be awaiting the GOP primary results in South Carolina.

Donald Trump and Ben Carson will be in the Upstate on Saturday night - Trump in Spartanburg and Carson in Greenville. U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio will be holding watch parties in Columbia as will former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The only one of the six candidates who will not be in South Carolina is Ohio Gov. John Kasich who will be at an event in Worchester, Massachusetts.

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10:45 a.m.

Ted Cruz has taken time away from campaigning in South Carolina to attend the funeral Mass in Washington for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Republican presidential candidate plans to be back in South Carolina later Saturday to await the results. Voting ends at 7 p.m.

The Texas senator has a personal connection to the high court: In the late 1990s, he served as a law clerk for a year to then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

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10:10 a.m.

Jeb Bush says he’s “excited where we stand” as he faces a critically important test in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary.

Bush says he’s going to “work hard for the day” and await results after the polls close at 7 p.m. He says “it’s interesting that a lot of people claim they’re undecided this late.”

The former Florida governor entered the 2016 presidential race as an early favorite. But he may need a third-place finish - if not better - in South Carolina in order to remain a viable candidate.

Bush tells reporters outside a polling location in Greenville that “to be able to beat expectations would be helpful. I think we’ll do that.”

And his take on the prospects of a President Donald Trump? Bush says the billionaire businessman “can’t win, plain and simple.”

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9:50 a.m.

South Carolina election officials are reporting no major problems in the first few hours of voting in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary.

State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said turnout was low to moderate, but that isn’t unexpected with the unusual Saturday voting eliminating the typical morning rush before work.

Whitmire says a handful of precincts had problems with getting machines booted up, but there were no serious problems.

Republican officials are expecting record turnout based on the interest in the race and South Carolina’s growing population. In 2012, 603,000 voted in the GOP presidential primary.

The weather was excellent too across the state, with highs in the 60s and 70s and almost no chance for rain.

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9:15 a.m.

Will there by a “Haley effect” in South Carolina’ Republican presidential primary?

Jason Sims - a teacher from Mount Pleasant - says he made a last-minute decision to vote for Marco Rubio, and that Gov. Nikki Haley’s endorsement was “a big deal.”

Sims says he was “kind of riding the fence” until Haley said she was backing the Florida senator.

Rubio is trying to rebound after a disappointing fifth-place finish in New Hampshire - and he’s hoping the popular governor’s endorsement will be a big boost.

Rubio wants to emerge as the go-to candidate for mainstream Republicans - and the chief alternative to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the race.

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8:40 a.m.

There’s a lot of attention on Jeb Bush as South Carolina Republican vote in their presidential primary.

The former Florida governor entered the 2016 presidential race as an early favorite. But he may need a third-place finish - if not better - on Saturday in order to remain viable in the race.

Bush finished sixth in Iowa’s leadoff caucuses and fourth in New Hampshire.

He’s trying to break out as the establishment alternative to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. But Bush has competition on that front, chiefly from Marco Rubio and John Kasich.

Without a strong showing in South Carolina, the Bush campaign may have a hard time competing in Nevada next week and then in the large number of states voting on March 1.

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7 a.m.

Polls are open in South Carolina for the state’s key Republican presidential primary amid projections of a record turnout.

State Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore is predicting as many as 650,000 voters will cast ballots by the time the polls close at 7 p.m. on Saturday evening.

That would easily eclipse the record of just over 600,000 who voted four years ago.

Moore says there seems to be increased interest this time because people have been more involved in campaigns through social media and smartphones.

Six candidates are vying in the GOP primary.

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4 a.m.

The blitz of campaign ads and the whirlwind of candidate speeches has finally wound down. Now it’s up to the voters of South Carolina to decide the state’s contentious Republican presidential primary.

The polls open at 7 a.m. Saturday in a primary that has included a bevy of candidates, a former president and a back-and-forth with the pope.

Front-runner Donald Trump on Saturday is looking to build on the momentum from his New Hampshire primary victory.

Two days before the voting, Pope Francis, asked about Trump’s plan for a wall on the Mexican border, said someone who thinks only about building walls and not bridges is not a Christian. Trump called the comment disgraceful.

Earlier this week, former President George W. Bush campaigned for his brother, Jeb, in North Charleston.

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