WASHINGTON — A South Carolina win behind him, Donald Trump powers on in a presidential race with one of his most caustic critics gone and skeptics forced to come to grips with his growing prospects for taking the Republican nomination.
Hillary Clinton avoided a stumble in Nevada, narrowly defeating Bernie Sanders in a state she was once expected to win handily and leaving her rival in need of some big victories in the coming crush of primaries.
A look at the presidential race as the parties swap states — Democrats in South Carolina and Republicans in Nevada are up next — and as Super Tuesday looms in a little over a week:
REPUBLICANS IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Trump has a head of steam to go with his famous head of hair after scoring back-to-back victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina. The New York billionaire staved off mainstream party rivals as well as the Iowa winner, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, to advance a high-flying campaign that seemed improbable from the start, but no longer.
Marco Rubio finished second over Ted Cruz in complete but unofficial results. With that edge, it’s becoming clearer that Rubio, a senator from Florida, will become the mainstream hope of party leaders who have been unsettled for months about the rise of Trump.
Cruz fell short despite a sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation and a conservative electorate, with many evangelicals, that seemed custom-made for him.
Jeb Bush, once a presumed favorite for the nomination, bowed to reality and suspended his campaign. Bush had become a fierce critic of Trump, but he found his voice too late.
DEMOCRATS IN NEVADA
Clinton won in a state that was once seen as nearly a sure bet for her. Sanders made it hotly competitive, but she prevailed on the strength of her experience and her appeal to minorities, women, voters 45 and older, wealthier people and moderates, according to surveys of Nevadans as they arrived at the caucus sites.
In a continuing sign of Clinton’s vulnerability, Sanders did best with voters looking for a candidate who is caring and honest. The socialist senator scored strongly with men, voters who are less affluent and educated, and people under 45 — exposing the age gap also seen in earlier contests.
Although far from the Clinton rout that could have turned the corner on the contest, her win nevertheless may ease the anxiety of some supporters after her razor-thin win in Iowa and big loss in New Hampshire.
“I am so thrilled and so grateful,” she told supporters. “Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other.”
Black voters strongly favored Clinton; Hispanics were closely divided. It was the first Democratic race in a state with an ethnically diverse population.
Clinton narrowly won Iowa and lost big in New Hampshire before South Carolina. Sanders has the money and excitement behind him to carry on but an extra hurdle to overcome — Clinton’s big delegate lead with Democratic Party insiders who can choose a candidate regardless of who wins primaries and caucuses.
A RESTIVE ELECTORATE
South Carolinians surveyed after they voted expressed disenchantment with the GOP establishment and widespread support for temporarily banning Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from coming into the country — a Trump idea that roiled the race months ago.
The South Carolina electorate had warnings for more traditional GOP politicians. Half of voters surveyed said they felt betrayed by politicians in the Republican Party.
Terrorism and the direction of the economy were among the top issues for GOP voters, according to exit polls. And three-quarters of voters supported the Muslim ban proposed by Trump.
— “I’ve seen Hillary do things for the Mexicans, I’ve seen her do things for the blacks, the whites, all of them. … I’m going to be here to put her in office — they’re going to hear my mouth.” — Mary Moore, 60, in Las Vegas, on why she’s supporting Clinton.
— “As much as I’d like to see a Christian as president, I’m not sure anyone can stay a Christian in that office.” — Teresa Farley, 60, in Columbia, South Carolina, explaining that Ben Carson was her favorite but he doesn’t “stand a chance” so she voted for Trump.
— “It’s been crazy.” — Allison Reilly, 18, on what it was like to pay attention to her first campaign as a voting-age adult. She drove 150 miles from her university to her parents’ house in Columbia to cast her first ballot — for Rubio.
The Republican caucuses in Nevada are Tuesday and South Carolina’s Democratic primary comes Feb. 27.
Associated Press writers Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas and Jeffrey Collins and Bruce Smith in South Carolina contributed to this report.
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