Since 1980, just one candidate has won the Republican nomination for United States President without first winning South Carolina’s Republican Primary.
Notice a pattern? Since 1980, when Lee Atwater help establish our state’s “First in the South” Primary, our state has almost always selected the eventual nominee. South Carolina Presidential Preference Primaries have unique characteristics and demographics which are more reflective of the national electorate at large – and therefore a much stronger indicator than any of the other earlier primaries or caucuses. We take our primaries very seriously – We pick presidents!
In the year 2000, South Carolina held a then-record setting presidential preference primary. Then-governor George W. Bush was propelled to the GOP nomination for President after winning South Carolina’s make-or-break GOP Presidential Primary. Bush had lost in New Hampshire to Senator McCain and it set up a bruising few weeks of non-stop, 24 hour media attention on the Palmetto State. That year, a whopping 573,101 South Carolina Republicans voted in the Presidential Primary.
George W. Bush was particularly strong in the upstate where voter turnout was heaviest – winning Greenville (42,846 out of 73,281 votes) and Spartanburg (21,736 out of 37,159 votes) Counties with 58%. Bush was also strong in the Midlands where he carried Lexington County (25,990 out of 45,277 votes) with 57% and Richland County (21,955 out of 44,822 votes) with 49%. Senator John McCain was strong on the coast where he carried Horry (14,763 out of 27,735 votes) and Beaufort (11,276 out of 21,212 votes) Counties with 53% – though Bush carried Charleston (22,380 out of 47,269 votes) with 47%. The next day’s headlines told of a monumental Victory…
“I believe because of this vote today that I will be the next President of the United States.”
– Gov. George W. Bush, Feb. 19, 2000
On January 21, 2012, a new record of 603,770 voters turned out in horrible weather to deliver victory to former Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich’s surprising victory was sparked by two dramatic presidential debates held in South Carolina in the week prior to the election. Election night headlines showed a presidential nomination race that was up for grabs:
“Surprising his rivals and scrambling the Republican race for the presidency, Newt Gingrich won the pivotal South Carolina primary Saturday…”
– The New York Times, January 21, 2012
“Just days after Mitt Romney seemed poised for a three-for-three streak in the opening presidential primaries, Newt Gingrich ensured the nomination fight will drag on…”
– FoxNews.com, January 21, 2012