McCain wins in S. Carolina over Huckabee's evangelical surge
Sen. John McCain was the projected winner of South Carolina's Republican primary Saturday night despite a strong showing by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee among the evangelical Christian voters who dominated the day's turnout.
Exit polls found self-described evangelical Christians made up nearly 60 percent of the vote, and Huckabee -- an ordained Baptist minister who emphasized his conservative Christian credentials -- was the choice of 40 percent of those voters. But he took only 12 percent of the nonevangelical vote, while McCain took 40 percent and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 21 percent.McCain ran strong in the coastal Low Country around Charleston and ran even with Huckabee in the state's inland Piedmont region, according to exit polls.
The GOP presidential contenders faced their first Southern contest in South Carolina, where voters like to point out that no one since Ronald Reagan has reached the White House without a win.
Former Education Secretary and CNN analyst Bill Bennett said a victory in South Carolina, the first major contest in the heavily Republican South, was a must-win for the former Arkansas governor.
"If he doesn't win South Carolina, he's not going to finish anywhere close to winning in Florida," the scene of the next major Republican contest, Bennett said.Rain and snow were falling in some places in the state Saturday morning, while election officials in Horry County, which includes Myrtle Beach, reported a "human error" that put voting machines offline in 80 percent of the county's precincts.
McCain's campaign had sought to obtain a court order to extend voting in the county by an additional hour, but was unable to do so.