Politics

South Carolina Republicans Explain Why They Feared A Trump Primary Win

CREDIT: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C.

SPARTANBURG, SC — Real estate mogul Donald Trump secured his second primary state win in South Carolina on Saturday, moving himself one step closer to securing the Republican Party’s nomination.

With 30 percent of precincts reporting, Trump was ahead of his closest competitor, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), by 10 points at press time.

Despite some claims that he would not be able to secure enough evangelical supporters to win the Southern state, Trump — who has said he’s never asked God for forgiveness and continues to flub religious references — was able to pull together enough of their support to win a majority of the state’s delegates. Trump’s win also clashes with the state’s self image of a place that is moving from its Confederate roots and becoming more inclusive.

In the days leading up to the primary, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush supporters told ThinkProgress that a Trump win would be disastrous for the state. Cruz voters lamented that Trump is not a “true conservative” or a faithful Christian, while Bush voters feared what his win would mean for the state’s inclusiveness.

“It’s scary,” said Kirby Stone, of Greenville. “Anyone is better than Hillary or Bernie Sanders, but obviously if it were up to me it would be Jeb.”

Stone said a Trump win reflects poorly on South Carolina. “It’s scary that that many people are willing to vote for someone like that. It says something to me and it’s sad that South Carolina is leaning that way.”

Margaret Ulmer, an older, Greenville native, agreed. “I had hoped we would be the stop gap here,” she said.

Cruz supports agreed, but for different reasons.

“I think we’re going to go downhill because of his ethics,” said Susan Pinkerton, who has volunteered for Cruz. “I don’t think he has any.”

While Trump was viewed as extreme across the country when he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country last December, a recent poll of South Carolina Republicans found that a majority of the state shares his views. The poll found that 60 percent of state Republicans support banning Muslims, while 29 percent support shutting down U.S. mosques and 47 percent support creating a national database of Muslims. Twenty-five percent even support banning Islam.

Trump supporters in Walterboro, South Carolina on Wednesday told ThinkProgress they have no issue with banning the practice of Islam in this country or keeping Muslim people out. “I don’t think they ought to be here,” said Karen Herndon, who attended a Trump rally with her extended family wearing Trump t-shirts. “They should stay in their country. This is our country.”

Karen Herndon and her family in Walterboro, SC.

Karen Herndon and her family in Walterboro, SC.

CREDIT: Kira Lerner

Mike Bando suggested setting up an internment camp for Syrian refugees — like what “we did with Japanese in the 1940s” — and suggested giving them all guns. “How do you separate the good from the bad?” he asked.

Trump’s win in South Carolina could mean that the candidate will ease through Super Tuesday, the voting day when a handful of Southern states with large evangelical populations cast their ballots.

“Obviously I hope that Trump doesn’t win tomorrow, but if he does win, [evangelicals] are going to have to rally around him,” Tonya Shellnutt said at a Cruz rally on Friday.