Republican voters in SC; Democrats in Nevada in spotlight

AP News
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Posted: Feb 20, 2016 2:07 PM
Republican voters in SC; Democrats in Nevada in spotlight

The spotlight for the presidential race turns to Republicans in South Carolina and Democrats in Nevada on Saturday. Since starting the first-in-the-South primary in 1980, South Carolina Republicans have long prided themselves in picking the eventual GOP nominee. But that streak ended in 2012 when Newt Gingrich won the state with 40 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney's 28 percent. South Carolinas polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The caucuses in Nevada begin around 11 a.m. local time. Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in 2008. But the caucuses have turned out a small number of people, making it tough to predict a winner between Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Here are snapshots of voters who went to the polls or caucused on Saturday:

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Jeb Bush's experience and his attempts to not attack other Republicans won over Wanda Herendeen.

"That's devastating," the 62-year-old office assistant said of a primary campaign that has seen other candidates repeatedly call each other liars. "We've heard too much of that. It's time to move on, and I think that he's capable of taking us through this."

Herendeen's 57-year-old engineer husband backed Bush, too.

"Looking at some of the other candidates, just felt like they weren't prepared to step into the presidency," he said after voting at the Boyd Hill Recreation Center in Rock Hill.

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James Coble looked at Ben Carson's calm, quiet demeanor and saw himself. So he cast his vote Saturday for the surgeon.

"I like what he had to say about a lot of things such as social issues. He seemed a lot more common sense than a lot of them," said the 29-year-old high school teacher after voting in Mount Pleasant.

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Steve Wilbourne used the process of elimination to eventually pick John Kasich.

The 46-year-old owner of a financial software company started off knowing he couldn't vote for Donald Trump.

"(Ben) Carson is my favorite in the race but I don't think he'll make it through the election. As much as I like the Bush family I think that's played. And I think Marco Rubio is too young. So it came down to (Ted) Cruz and Kasich and I think Kasich is someone who can unite the country and win the general election," Wilbourne said at an armory in Mount Pleasant.

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Allison Reilly, 18, drove home 150 miles from Coastal Carolina University to her parents' house in Columbia to cast the first ballot of her life for Marco Rubio.

She liked Rubio's positions on national security. But almost as important was the education she received paying close attention to a political campaign

"It's been crazy," Reilly said of the past two months.

She decided Ted Cruz can't be trusted. She liked the energy Donald Trump injected into the campaign, but felt he didn't have the right temperament to be president.

Reilly said many of her friends are more excited about Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont, who will be on the ballot next Saturday for the state's Democratic presidential primary.

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Don Koonce, 71, struggled with his decision. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz scared him. He liked really liked Jeb Bush, but couldn't cast his vote for the former Florida governor as his position in the polls faded.

So the media marketing company owner and former U.S. Navy commander voted for Marco Rubio.

"Honestly, I don't know if Rubio would be the best on national security. I still think Jeb Bush would be the best candidate. But I don't think he could win, and we need someone who can win," Koonce said outside the Aldersgate Methodist Church in Greenville.

He said the field was disappointing. No one talked seriously about the issues or had the leadership qualities necessary to become the nation's most powerful leader. "I don't think any of them do. I'm ready to move to Fiji," he joked.

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Associated Press writers Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Tom Foreman Jr. in Rock Hill, South Carolina; Bruce Smith in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina; and Mitch Weiss in Greenville, South Carolina, contributed to this report.