ATLANTA — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump took a victory lap here Sunday after a decisive win in the South Carolina primary, an instructive performance that the campaign believes could foretell a strong showing in the upcoming bloc of Southern primaries.
Speaking to thousands of people who gathered at the Georgia World Congress Center, the billionaire thanked South Carolina voters and expressed extreme confidence that he would win Georgia and other Southern states that will vote during “Super Tuesday” on March 1.
Trump called his win in South Carolina primary “beautiful” and “conclusive.”
“We won with everything. We won with women; I love the women. We won with men. I’d rather win with women, to be honest. We won with evangelicals, like unbelievable. We won with the military,” he said. “We won with everything. We won with highly educated, pretty well educated, and poorly educated.”
“We won with everything. Tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people,” he added.
The Trump campaign has been dogged by questions about its ability to transform the enormous interest in its candidate into actual votes. With wide victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina, the campaign is now charging forward confident that they will be able to sustain high supporter turnout.
“He has a strong personality. He seems like he could be the one that will come in and get things done. He’s a new face, a new direction,” said Chris Shaw, 41, who is deciding between Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla).
The depth of the real estate mogul’s support in the South has been difficult to pinpoint because polling for the "SEC" primary states remains extremely unreliable. Because of demographic similarities, strategists are parsing exit polls from South Carolina to see which candidate has momentum among late-deciding voters.
“I'm a believer in polls, as you've probably heard, but only when they're good ones,” Trump told the crowd.
Trump’s status as the GOP’s undisputed front-runner has given serious pause to party leaders who fear that Trump’s stark anti-immigrant message will alienate independent voters during the general election in November. That could give the Democratic nominee a more direct path to the White House.
The billionaire’s staunchest critics remain certain that there is a firm ceiling to Trump’s Republican support that will become clearer as the GOP field narrows. They hope for a strong alternative to the candidate, one who can consolidate the anti-Trump vote. Trump has dismissed that possibility, saying that he could conceivably earn the support of voters as his rivals drop out of the race.
Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) remain locked in an increasingly testy battle for second place. While they fight it out, Trump could accelerate his path to the nomination after states begin awarding delegates in a winner-take-all format on March 15.
But Trump’s unpredictable behavior and penchant for high-profile feuds remains a significant factor hanging over the election cycle. In the final week before the South Carolina primary, Trump accused President George W. Bush of lying about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he locked into a war of statements with Pope Francis, and he called for a boycott of all Apple products.
Trump’s supporters remain undeterred.
“He’s real,” said Elaine Clark, 45. “That’s the best thing about him. He’s real.”