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Live Blog: South Carolina GOP Primary

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Smart Politics will continue to monitor and update the official Republican primary results tonight in South Carolina. The following updated percentages are based on raw vote numbers provided by reporting precincts, not a scientific random sample.

6:02 p.m. Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC are projecting a too-close-to-call race between John McCain and Mike Huckabee, according to exit polls. Fox News' exit poll had McCain leading Huckabee 32 to 27 percent.

6:10 p.m. Nevada Caucus winner Mitt Romney is addressing a rally in Florida. Romney was not expected to compete for the top two spots in South Carolina, though he did run about half of the television spots there.

6:13 p.m. MSNBC is reporting that Republican California Congressman Duncan Hunter has withdrawn from the presidential race. Hunter has polled in a distant last place since the field narrowed down to seven nationally-recognized candidates (with apologies to Alan Keyes and John Cox). Hunter ran on a traditional conservative platform with a particular emphasis on stopping illegal immigration.

6:18 p.m. CNN is reporting, based on exit polls, that Romney and Thompson are locked in a close race for third place in South Carolina.

6:23 p.m. While Hillary Clinton won a majority of the votes in the Nevada Democratic caucus (51 percent, to Barack Obama's 45 percent), NBC News and the Associated Press are reporting that Obama won 13 delegates to Clinton's 12. If the delegate count holds, this news will certainly put into doubt (among the campaigns and perhaps within the media) as to which candidate won the state from a public relations perspective.

6:35 p.m. (1 percent reporting)
McCain = 38%
Huckabee = 23%
Romney = 19%
Thompson = 11%
Giuliani = 5%
Paul = 4%
Hunter = 0%

6:47 p.m. NBC News is projecting Ron Paul will finish in 2nd place in the Nevada cacuses - edging out heavyweight John McCain. This is Paul's best finish to date, as well as his highest level of support (14 percent, with 98 percent reporting).

6:48 p.m. MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell characterized South Carolina as "Bush country" because two-thirds of Republicans in the state approve of President Bush's job performance according to primary exit polls. O'Donnell fails to realize that although Bush's job approval rating has been in the low 30s for more than the past year nationwide, Bush's approval rating among Republicans frequently polls above two-thirds in almost all states across the nation, even in more liberal states like Oregon (68 percent approval) and Washington (70 percent approval), according to recent SurveyUSA polling. Bush's approval rating in Iowa among Republicans in early January was even higher (74 percent) according to SurveyUSA.

6:58 p.m. (6 percent reporting)
McCain = 35%
Huckabee = 28%
Romney = 16%
Thompson = 14%
Paul = 4%
Giuliani = 3%
Hunter = 0%

7:00 p.m. Fred Thompson is speaking in South Carolina to supporters, delivering his remarks about his campaign and the Republican Party with a somewhat ominous tone. The media has wondered whether Thompson will go on to Florida after tonight's primary results (where he is fighting for third place).

7:05 p.m. Thompson did not ensorse John McCain, as expected by some pundits, nor withdraw from the race, instead telling his supporters to "Be strong. Be strong." Thompson ended his speech to derisive laughter in the MSNBC newsroom, whereupon anchor Keith Olberman blantantly asked, "What was that?" The media was led to believe Thompson would make some kind of announcement this evening.

7:10 p.m. (14 percent reporting)
McCain = 35%
Huckabee = 30%
Thompson = 15%
Romney = 14%
Paul = 4%
Giuliani = 2%
Hunter = 0%

7:23 p.m. Romney has already done interviews on all three major cable television networks, continuing to frame his performances to date ("3 golds and 2 silvers") in Olympic-speak, drawing from his experience as CEO of the Salt Lake City winter Olympics.

7:28 p.m. (29 percent reporting)
McCain = 35%
Huckabee = 29%
Thompson = 15%
Romney = 15%
Paul = 4%
Giuliani = 2%
Hunter = 0%

7:35 p.m. All eyes on the GOP race will soon turn to Florida after the final votes are counted tonight. In polls with field dates ending during the past week, McCain was on top in 4 of 5 surveys (Research 2000, SurveyUSA, Quinnipiac, Rasmussen) - although with only one lead outside the margin of error. GIuliani led in the other poll (InsiderAdvantage). Giuliani had led in 38 of the previous 42 public polls conducted from January 2007 through the first week of January 2008.

7:42 p.m. (46 percent reporting)
McCain = 33%
Huckabee = 30%
Thompson = 16%
Romney = 15%
Paul = 4%
Giuliani = 2%
Hunter = 0%

7:55 p.m. On MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan is explaining how issues (the economy and, particularly illegal immigration) could provide a path for Mitt Romney to win the Republican nomination, especially if the field dwindles down to Romney and John McCain. Buchanan's sister, Bay Buchanan, has been working for the Romney campaign ever since Tom Tancredo's departure from the GOP race. Both Buchanans have been staunch opponents of illegal immigration in recent years.

7:58 p.m. (65 percent reporting)
McCain = 34%
Huckabee = 29%
Thompson = 16%
Romney = 15%
Paul = 4%
Giuliani = 2%
Hunter = 0%

8:08 p.m. (73 percent reporting)
McCain = 34%
Huckabee = 29%
Thompson = 16%
Romney = 15%
Paul = 4%
Giuliani = 2%
Hunter = 0%

8:11 p.m. MSNBC's Chris Matthews has just (mis)characterized Mike Huckabee's likely defeat in South Carolina by drawing comparisons to Pat Robertson, who, said Matthews, "Could only win Iowa." As Smart Politics has mentioned all month long in light of at least a dozen historical misstatements by cable tv anchors and pundits, Robertson did not win the Iowa Caucus; he placed second.

8:13 p.m. (78 percent reporting)
McCain = 33%
Huckabee = 30%
Thompson = 16%
Romney = 15%
Paul = 4%
Giuliani = 2%
Hunter = 0%

8:17 p.m. Huckabee has reduced McCain's lead from 16,000 to about 14,000, now with 82 percent of precincts reporting. Neither Huckabee nor McCain have made their acceptance/concession speeches to their supporters tonight - each likely waiting for a call of the race to be made.

8:18 p.m. The Associated Press and Fox News have called the South Carolina primary for John McCain.

8:20 p.m. NBC News now projects a McCain victory.

8:22 p.m. And CNN has now projected a McCain victory in South Carolina.

8:23 p.m. (83 percent reporting)
McCain = 33%
Huckabee = 30%
Thompson = 16%
Romney = 15%
Paul = 4%
Giuliani = 2%
Hunter = 0%

8:31 p.m. The only bad news for McCain tonight is that the media call of his victory came so late in the evening - nearly 2.5 hours after polls closed. This delayed much of the praise news anchors and pundits could heap on the Arizona Senator for his performance in South Carolina. Check that - McCain losing to Ron Paul in Nevada was the other bad news of the day for his campaign.

8:34 p.m. Mike Huckabee is addressing his supporters in South Carolina. In what may have been a thinly-veiled jab at both Mitt Romney (from the Iowa battle) and Fred Thompson (from his South Carolina campaign), Huckabee states he would rather have come in second and run a clean campaign than have won by attacking his opponents.

8:43 p.m. (92 percent reporting)
McCain = 33%
Huckabee = 30%
Thompson = 16%
Romney = 15%
Paul = 4%
Giuliani = 2%
Hunter = 0%

9:00 p.m. John McCain is giving his victory speech now in South Carolina. Like in New Hampshire, where McCain gave a very awkward victory speech, McCain is once again reading from notes, and suffering by comparison to Huckabee who spoke without notes a half-hour earlier. McCain's crowd of supporters before him, however, like in New Hampshire is the equal to any campaign in terms of enthusiasm. McCain does not stumble in his speech tonight, however, so it is an improvement from 1.5 weeks ago.

9:17 p.m. (93 percent reporting)
McCain = 33%
Huckabee = 30%
Thompson = 16%
Romney = 15%
Paul = 4%
Giuliani = 2%
Hunter = 0%

Previous post: Romney Rolls In Nevada Caucus
Next post: The Great Fall of the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Campaign

1 Comment


  • Governor Mark Sanford on Illegal Immigration
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHJohB8htGk

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