The third primary contest in the Republican presidential nomination handed Donald Trump his second victory in a race that has seen hundreds of millions of dollars spent and a dozen candidates drop out.
The real estate mogul and reality television host won the first-in-the-South primary in South Carolina Saturday, adding legitimacy to a campaign that many wrote off since even before he officially announced in June.
The tight battle for second place was finally called with nearly every vote counted. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio edged out Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for a second-place finish.
But second and third place mean little Saturday night because Trump won so handily, picking up every Congressional district, that he won all fifty available delegates.
Meanwhile, Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who entered the race amid high expectations, is out of money and out of ideas on how to win the nomination in a year where outsiders have trumped the conventional.
Bush suspended his campaign Saturday after a finish far behind the leaders, garnering just 8 percent of the vote in a state that has been loyal to the Bush family for three decades.
Despite slipping in the polls in the Palmetto State over the final days, Trump was able to hold on for a victory that gives him an added boost as he heads to the Nevada caucuses in three days and Super Tuesday one week after that.
“There’s nothing easy about running for president I can tell you. It’s tough, it's nasty, it's mean, it's vicious, it’s beautiful. When you win it’s beautiful. We’re going to start winning for our country," Trump said Saturday night with his family flanked at this sides.
His supporters booed when he congratulated competitors Cruz and Rubio for running a tough race. They cheered, however, when he repeated his promise that Mexico would pay for a wall on the Southern border.
Trump's win is his second of the cycle, coming off a win in New Hampshire that reignited his campaign. He placed a disappointing second in the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1 behind Cruz, whose savvy ground organization propelled the Texas senator to victory there.
South Carolina is said to be the state where presidents are made. The candidate that won there went on to the nomination in every Republican primary since 1980, except for the last one.
Whether the voters there have predicted the nominee this year is unknown, but it’s one more step in a contest where candidates must obtain a majority of the 2,570 delegates before clinching the nomination. After South Carolina, only 103 delegates have been awarded.
Rubio's campaign touted a potential win in South Carolina several weeks ago, but Saturday they insisted that they are pleased with their finish.
After locking up critical South Carolinian endorsements that included Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, Rubio rallied his supporters. He sounded optimistic and energized when he told an enthusiastic crowd, "After tonight this has become a three-person race and we will win the nomination."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich disagrees with Rubio. He emailed supporters that it's a four-person race. And the last governor standing headed to Massachusetts to begin implementing his northern and midwestern strategy to win the nomination.
Republican voters went to the polls in South Carolina on the same day as Democrats in Nevada caucused, giving Hillary Clinton a victory there.
South Carolina is the third contest of the primary but the first window into the South in a competitive Republican presidential race that began with 15 major candidates that has whittled down to six as the polls opened Saturday.
Living up to its reputation, the race in South Carolina turned dirty in the final days, especially between the three leaders. Robocalls, push polls, name-calling and threatened lawsuits defined the last week of campaigning in a state where the stakes were high.