COLUMBIA, S.C. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Telling backers that “when you win, it’s beautiful,” Donald Trump thanked his supporters for delivering a commanding first-place finish in South Carolina Saturday, cementing his status as the Republican presidential front-runner.
And he predicted big wins in the races ahead.
“Folks, let’s go, let’s have a big win in Nevada—Let’s put this thing away,” he tells hundreds of screaming supporters at a victory party in a Spartanburg. “And let’s make America great again.”
PHOTOS: South Carolina GOP Primary
Trump also offered his congratulations to rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who were in a tight race for second place, drawing boos from the crowd.
“Just one minute, come on, one second, alright?” he urged them, as he explained how tough it is to run. “There’s nothing easy about running for president, I can tell you. It’s tough, it’s nasty, it’s mean, it’s vicious.”
But Trump notably made no mention of Jeb Bush, who announced he is suspending his campaign earlier in the evening. Trump has hammered Bush throughout the campaign.
He reiterated several of his campaign points, such as building a wall paid for by Mexico, protecting Second Amendment rights, and revamping the education system in America.
Trump said he goes “back to war tomorrow” and predicted he will do “very, very well” in the next Republican contest in Nevada. He also predicted that as other Republican candidates eventually drop out, many of their supporters will switch to his side.
“They don’t understand that as people drop out, I’m going to get a lot of those votes also,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, also broke her usual silence Saturday, telling supporters that “he loves you.” She said her husband will “be the best president.”
The victory is a second-straight victory for Trump after his first-place finish in New Hampshire. The candidates supporters erupted into cheers as they learned their candidate had won South Carolina’s GOP primary.
Supporters gave each other high-fives and held Trump signs high above their heads as they celebrated. Some chanted “USA! USA!”
After Trump’s victory speech, Rubio spoke to his supporters, saying the Republican presidential primary has become a three-person race between himself, Trump and Cruz.
The Florida senator predicted that he will win the GOP nomination after performing well in the South Carolina primary.
Rubio congratulated Trump for his victory and praised Bush, but said tonight he’s a step closer to being the next president.
Speaking to a crowd of supporters in Columbia, Cruz warned that the “Washington cartel” is growing nervous with the successes of the conservative movement.
Cruz said he is “effectively tied for second place” with Rubio, in a finish that he said defied expectations. He also praised Bush as “a man who didn’t go to the gutter” and engage in insults and attacks.
Exit polls taken in South Carolina found that about three-quarters of Republican voters support a temporary ban on Muslims who are not American citizens from entering the United States. That’s one of Trump’s signature proposals.
A majority of voters looking for an outsider candidate supported Trump, providing a boost to the first-time candidate for office.
About four in 10 South Carolina Republican primary voters say that an important quality in a candidate is that they “shares my values.”
A poll conducted by voters in Saturday’s primary showed that being an instrument of change and electability in November are also important qualities.
The voters were split on whether the next president should be an outsider or a member of the political establishment. Nearly half said they prefer someone who has experience in politics and about the same numbers would rather see someone from outside the political establishment.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)