McCain Wins South Carolina Primary

John McCain, whose 2000 insurgent campaign was derailed in South Carolina, has emerged as the victor in 2008, holding off Mike Huckabee, this year’s surprise candidate and a native Southerner.

John McCain - Mike Huckabee South Carolina Photo Support from the state’s military veterans, who account for 25 percent of the electorate in the Republican contest, and support from independents and moderates helped McCain win victory. A big turnout by conservatives and evangelicals kept Huckabee competitive in the state.

With almost all of the precincts reporting, McCain has garnered 33 percent support, Huckabee 30 percent, with Thompson at 16 percent and Romney at 15 percent.

Huckabee said he called McCain to congratulate him. “I want to thank him for running a good and decent and civil campaign,” Huckabee said Saturday night in his concession speech to cheering supporters. “I am grateful for the campaign that he has run,” he said. “Our effort here, we gave everything we had. We left it all on the field.”


Thompson, who has yet to win any presidential contest, made the biggest effort of his campaign in the state, highlighting his southern roots and conservative ideology. A Thompson campaign spokesman told ABC News’ Christine Byun their status is “fluid” and they will evaluate their situation based on final results.

My guess is that Thompson will drop out of the race over the next day or two, joining Duncan Hunter, who did the same tonight.

McCain emerges from the race as the clear frontrunner and with the momentum to hold off Rudy Giuliani’s stand in Florida. Huckabee has acquitted himself well and could certainly take several Deep South states on Super Duper Tuesday (Feb. 5) but it’s difficult to see how he takes the nomination at this point.

The race, therefore, has seemingly dwindled to a contest between McCain and Mitt Romney, with Giuliani a major wildcard.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    Today is the perfect storm for the GOP, because McCain-Hillary might be the only combo they would be favored to win. Sure enough the Democratic primary voters demonstrate their knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Barring some unexpected intervening event, I don’t think that SC alone will be enough for Obama to get the boost he needed before Feb 5.

  2. Richard Gardner says:

    I still think that Thompson is a very viable Vice-Presidential candidate. Post-Cheney, folks realize that the total ticket can matter.

  3. just me says:

    I don’t see Thompson bucking for VP, or even wanting it. He sort of seemed drafted into the race as it is.

    I think Huckabee is bucking for a VP slot at this point more than the actual nomination.

  4. floyd says:

    Maybe the VP position could be a reward for Thompson’s shill candidacy.