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Nevada settled, South Carolina up for grabs

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (CNN) — Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are in a close race for first in South Carolina, according to early results.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are vying for third place in the pivotal Republican primary.

Results from the GOP primary come just hours after the Nevada caucuses.

Sen. Hillary Clinton won Nevada’s Democratic caucuses and Romney claimed victory on the Republican side, according to CNN projections.

Only the Republicans face off in South Carolina on Saturday. The Democrats hold their contests in one week.

Although Nevada has more delegates at stake, South Carolina represents an important symbolic win for the Republicans. See scenes from Saturday’s races

The state’s GOP primary voters have picked their party’s eventual nominee in every election since 1980, but with the race so volatile, that may not hold true this year.

Republicans named the economy as the most important issue affecting their vote in primary, according to early exit polling data, echoing Nevada voters in caucuses earlier in the day.

And, like Nevada voters, illegal immigration was the second most important issue. The war Iraq, followed by terrorism, were next, the exit polls showed.

Exit polls in South Carolina indicated clear divisions among voters. Among those who considered themselves born-again or fundamentalist Christians, Huckabee won a clear victory.

Among those that viewed the war in Iraq to be the most important issue, McCain was dominant — but Iraq ranked as only the third most important issue among all voters.

McCain tried unsuccessfully to extend polling hours in South Carolina after learning voting machines in the eastern part of the state were malfunctioning, according to a lawyer for his campaign.

Human error was to blame for putting voting machines offline in 80 percent of Horry County’s precincts, county spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said.

By 4 p.m. ET, only about four of the county’s 118 precincts were without a working machine, she said.

A win in the South Carolina Republican primary could give one of the candidates a foot up in a race that, so far, has produced three different winners in three major contests. Watch how candidates are competing in South Carolina

South Carolina is the state where the Republican base passes judgment on the candidates, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider said. If conservatives are going to rally behind any single contender, we’ll see that happen in South Carolina.

The weather could become a significant factor in the race. Cold rain was falling across the state, and snow was reported in spots.

Snow is rare in South Carolina and brings the state to a standstill when it falls, even in small amounts.

The latest polling in South Carolina had Huckabee as the front-runner. An American Research Group poll conducted January 17-18 had Huckabee leading at 33 percent, followed by McCain at 26 percent.

Thompson was at 21 percent and the poll found and Romney was running fourth at 9 percent. All other candidates were in single digits. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Right now, conservatives are split. Economic conservatives like Mitt Romney, social conservatives like Huckabee, and military conservatives like John McCain, Schneider said. They could end up just as divided after the South Carolina vote.

In Nevada’s contest, Clinton led rival Barack Obama by 6 percentage points with 97 percent of precincts reporting in Saturday’s Democratic caucuses.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was a distant third.

I guess this is how the West was won, Clinton told supporters Saturday. Watch Clinton celebrate in Nevada

Clinton issued a special thanks to her supporters from the 60,000-strong Culinary Workers Union. Clinton had been encouraging members of the union, which endorsed Obama, to vote their conscience.

Zachary Conine, a permanent caucus chairman in Las Vegas, said Clinton’s campaign organization helped hand her the win.

Her people are efficient, fervent. They were there first, they were calling people, they had a list of voters they were using to call people, making sure people came out. They had signs, they had shirts, they had a clear chain of command, he said.

Romney, the projected winner of the GOP caucuses, was cruising with 52 percent of the vote with 98 percent of the precincts reporting, but a dogfight was on for second place.

Nevada marks the third win for Romney. He took Michigan on Tuesday and also won the overshadowed contest in Wyoming.

If you can win those two states — Michigan and Nevada — it means you have put together quite a coalition and have been able to make the kind of inroads you have to make to take the White House, he said Saturday afternoon from Florida. Watch Romney claim victory

McCain and Rep. Ron Paul were in a close race for second place, ahead of Thompson and Huckabee.

California Rep. Duncan Hunter, who received just 2 percent of the GOP vote, abandoned his presidential bid after the results came in.

Nevada marks the second straight win for the former Massachusetts governor, following a win in the Michigan primary earlier in the week.

In a presidential race that’s increasingly coming down to who has the most delegates, a win helps Romney.

Romney also benefited from his Mormon religion, the poll results show. Romney captured 94 percent of the voters who identified themselves as Mormon, which made up 25 percent of all Republicans participating in the GOP caucuses.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints estimates there are 170,000 members living in Nevada.
Nevada settled, South Carolina up for grabs – found here.

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January 20, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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