Presidential Primary History
Now-State Senator John Courson and President Ronald Reagan
Since 1980, no candidate has won the Republican Nomination for President without winning South Carolina’s Republican Primary.
|1980||Ronald Reagan||55%/78,854||John Connally||30%/43,040|
|1988||George H.W. Bush||49%/95,550||Bob Dole||21%/40,950|
|1992||George H.W. Bush||67%||Pat Buchanan||26%|
|1996||Bob Dole||45.1%/124,904||Pat Buchanan||29.2%/80,824||276,741|
|2000||George W. Bush||53.4%/305,998||John McCain||41.2%/239,964||573,101|
|2008||John McCain||33.2%/147,686||Mike Huckabee||29.8%/132,943||445,499/19.8%|
|2012||Newt Gingrich||40.4%/244,065||Mitt Romney||27.9%/168,123||603,770|
Notice a pattern? Since 1980, when Lee Atwater help establish our state’s “First in the South” Primary, our state has always selected the eventual nominee. South Carolina Presidential Preference Primaries have unique characteristics and demographics which are more reflective of the national electorate at large and therefore a much stronger indicator than any of the other earlier primaries or caucuses. We take our primaries very seriously – We pick presidents!
In the year 2000, South Carolina held the biggest presidential preference primary ever. Then-governor George W. Bush was propelled to the GOP nomination for President after winning South Carolina’s make-or-break GOP Presidential Primary. Bush had lost in New Hampshire to Senator McCain and it set up a bruising few weeks of non-stop, 24 hour media attention on the Palmetto State. That year, a whopping 573,101 South Carolina Republicans voted in the Presidential Primary.
George W. Bush was particularly strong in the upstate where voter turnout was heaviest – winning Greenville (42,846 out of 73,281 votes) and Spartanburg (21,736 out of 37,159 votes) Counties with 58%. Bush was also strong in the Midlands where he carried Lexington County (25,990 out of 45,277 votes) with 57% and Richland County (21,955 out of 44,822 votes) with 49%. Senator John McCain was strong on the coast where he carried Horry (14,763 out of 27,735 votes) and Beaufort (11,276 out of 21,212 votes) Counties with 53% – though Bush carried Charleston (22,380 out of 47,269 votes) with 47%.
The next day’s headlines told of a monumental Victory…
“I believe because of this vote today that I will be the next President of the United States.” – Gov. George W. Bush, Feb. 19, 2000
“…a decisive victory in an important southern state that was a bellwether of conservative sentiment…” – Terry Neal, Washington, February 20, 2000
“S.C. Saves Bush” – The State, Feb. 20, 2000
“South Carolina restored Bush’s frontrunner credentials so badly shattered in New Hampshire…” – David Espo, Associated Press, Feb. 20, 2000
“South Carolina primary proves watershed for Bush. Victory could carry him to White House.” – The State, Feb, 21, 2000