Trump wins big in South Carolina, Clinton narrowly clinches Nevada

Extraordinary battle taking shape between Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton after crucial victories in South Carolina and Nevada respectively

An extraordinary battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could be taking shape in the 2016 presidential race after the two candidates won crucial victories in the Republican and Democratic contests for the American presidency.

The victories by Trump, the billionaire property mogul who is running as an anti-establishment outsider, and Clinton, a preeminent political insider, solidified their positions as the front-runners to win their parties’ respective nominations ahead of the Nov 8 of the presidential election.

And in a dramatic and potentially pivotal night for both parties on Saturday, Trump won in South Carolina by a wide margin, while Clinton, the Democratic party establishment’s pick, clinched victory in the Nevada caucuses.

Both the Republican and Democratic contests remain open, with Trump and Clinton facing significant challenges in contests that have so far been highly unpredictable. The night’s most prominent casualty was Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, after he dropped out of the race, ending his dream of becoming a third Bush president after his father and brother.

"The people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken, and I really respect their decision … In this campaign I have stood my ground refusing to bend to the political winds" an emotional Bush said in Columbia after securing just 8% of the vote.

Trump made no mention of Bush’s decision to pull out of the race in his concession speech in Spartanburg. But he briefly congratulated Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who in effect were tied on around 22%, saying “it’s not easy” running for president.

By winning both South Carolina and New Hampshire and holding leads in 13 states that hold Republican contests on March 1, Trump was arguably on track to win the nomination, an outcome that seemed astounding to contemplate when he entered the race last summer.

With 99% of South Carolina precincts reporting, Trump had 32.5%, followed by Rubio with 22.5% and Cruz with 22.3%.

Trump's victory won him at least 44 of the state's 50 delegates, bringing his delegate count to 61, compared to 11 for Cruz and 10 for Rubio, according to a tally by Real Clear Politics. Republicans need 1,237 delegates to win the party nomination.

Clinton’s victory over democratic socialist Bernie Sanders in Nevada was considerably narrower than Trump’s over Cruz and Rubio, after the independent senator from Vermont once again put in a better-than-expected performance, making significant inroads into the former secretary of state’s Latino votes.

After winning the Nevada caucuses 53% to 47%, Clinton seized on the much-needed victory as aides claimed momentum was on her side after Sanders held her to an effective tie in Iowa and convincingly beat her in New Hampshire.

Her result denied Sanders the breakthrough win he had sought in a state with a heavy minority population, but his ability to close a one-time double-digit polling lead for Clinton suggests the Democratic nominating race will be long and hard fought.

"Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other," she told cheering supporters at a victory rally in Las Vegas. "This is your campaign."

Sanders vowed to fight on and set his sights on the 11 states that vote on "Super Tuesday," March 1. He predicted that when Democrats gather for their nominating convention in Philadelphia in July, "We are going to see the results of one of the great political upsets in the history of the United States."

"The wind is at our backs," the Vermont senator said. "We have the momentum."

Despite the fact both Trump and Clinton now have newfound momentum, winning two of their first three nomination contests, major obstacles remain. Rivals on both the Republican and Democratic side will now broaden their challenges across the country, 10 days away from the crucial Super Tuesday primaries on 1 March.

Before that the two parties switch states, with Democrats heading to South Carolina, and Republicans to Nevada.

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