There are many stories coming out of the South Carolina Republican presidential primary.
Donald Trump's big win secured all 50 of the Palmetto State's delegates. Jeb Bush failed to hit double-digits and ended his bid. And Sen. Tim Scott, arguably the most popular conservative in any red state, helped Marco Rubio squeak by Ted Cruz with his endorsement.
The really big story coming out of South Carolina, though, is how and where Trump won.
It's something that both grass-roots conservatives and establishment Republicans should look at closely. It provides a glimpse as to how conservatives can win nationally and how the GOP can re-establish trust with its base and bring Reagan Democrats and independents back into the fold. It also shows how organizing early with an effective ground-game and top-notch people makes a real difference when bumps in the road occur.
The race in the metropolitan areas of South Carolina was extremely competitive. Greenville County was virtually a three-way tie among Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, with Trump barely edging out the Texas senator by 2 percentage points.
Greenville is an evangelical vote-rich county that Cruz needed to win big. Richland County, home of the State Capitol, Columbia, went to Rubio in a close win and Charleston went with the Florida senator in a 1 point win over the real estate magnate. It was also fairly close in other major metropolitan areas such as Aiken, Greenwood, Spartanburg, and Florence.
Now let's look at where and how Donald Trump won. It tells us a lot.
- Trump won the rural areas of South Carolina and he won them big. He took Colleton, Hampton, Barnwell, Georgetown, Allendale, Bamberg, Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, and Williamsburg counties all in excess of 40 percent of the vote.
- He mopped up with absentee votes, garnering ridiculously high percentages. Prior planning with getting identified Trump supporters to turn in absentee votes paid off big-time.
- He won vote-rich Horry County (home to Myrtle Beach) with an unheard of 49 percent of the vote. Horry County is loaded with retirees and veterans. Retirees believed he would strengthen Social Security. Veterans liked his tough talk against a broken Department of Veterans Affairs and his plan to secure America's borders and keep the country safe.
Yes, the rural areas, absentee votes and Horry County's retirees and veterans gave Donald Trump his margin of victory in South Carolina.
With over 725,000 votes cast, South Carolina Republicans broke their previous record by over 100,000 new voters. Trump clearly benefited. One long time County Chairman told me last week, "I've been getting calls from people I've never heard of — asking where do I go vote for Trump on Saturday?”
Exit polls show Trump won among various groups, including evangelicals, military veterans and those worried about the economy. Yes, many are angry, but it sure looks like those "angry" voters include social, economic, and national security conservatives who made up Ronald Reagan's winning coalition.
Trump got to South Carolina and he organized early. When bumps in the road came, he was able to withstand them.
The man who laid the groundwork for Trump was his friend, South Carolina businessman Ed McMullen. McMullen, a student of history, took a page out of Reagan and Bush 41's playbook and made South Carolina Trump's firewall. He has emerged as "Trump's Lee Atwater."
Regardless of whether Trump goes on to win the nomination, grass-roots conservatives and the Republican establishment can learn from how he won.
It's a blueprint for victory in 2016.
Van Hipp is chairman of American Defense International, Inc. (ADI), a Washington, D.C. consulting firm. He is former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, and served on the Presidential Electoral College in 1988. He is the author of "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." To read more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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