South Carolina Republican primary voters have selected New York billionaire and businessman Donald Trump as their choice to be the GOP nominee in the 2016 First in the South Primary.
The results continue to come in, but exit polls show Trump with a lead over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Trump muscled his way through the rough and tumble primary that saw the businessman's bombastic personality on full display.
During the debate in Greenville on Feb. 13, Trump got into a heated exchange over foreign policy with Jeb Bush. Trump accused Jeb's brother George W. Bush and his administration of not keeping the country safe during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed 2,977 people in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.
“We should've never been in Iraq,” Trump said. “We have destabilized the Middle East.”
“While Donald Trump was building a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe. And I'm proud of what he did,” Bush said.
“How did he keep us safe? The World Trade Center - excuse me. I lost hundreds of friends. The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That's not safe,” Trump said.
Following the debate, Trump fought skirmishes with Ted Cruz through press releases and news conferences. In one such release, Trump threatened to sue Cruz for "false ads" and "lies."
During a news conference on Monday, the billionaire called Cruz a "totally unstable individual" and the "single biggest liar [he's] ever come across, in politics or otherwise."
"His statements are totally untrue and completely outrageous," Trump said in a statement. "It is hard to believe a person who proclaims to be a Christian could be so dishonest and lie so much."
Cruz, meanwhile, said he laughed off the threats.
Trump found another rival in the unlikeliest of places on Thursday. Pope Francis, while not mentioning Trump by name, appeared to question Trump's Christianity because of the billionaire's threats to build a wall to keep out undocumented immigrants coming from Mexico.
“A person who thinks only about building wall, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” the pontiff said. “I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”
Trump sharply responded on Facebook, calling the Pope's words "disgraceful," and openly asked if the religious leader was being used as a pawn by the Mexican government.
“For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful,” Trump said. “No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith."
Trump's appeal to evangelical voters appeared to help him in the South Carolina primary. Throughout the campaign, Trump counted on the state's large evangelical voting bloc to propel him to victory.
With Saturday night's results, Trump will receive all 50 of South Carolina's delegates, giving him 67 delegates so far to Cruz's 11 and Rubio's 10.
The Republicans now leave South Carolina and head west for the Nevada Republican Caucus on Feb. 23. Meanwhile, the Democrats return to South Carolina for the Democratic Primary on Feb. 27.
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