Three Days to South Carolina: A Three-Way Battle For The Evangelical Vote

Cortney O'Brien
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Posted: Feb 17, 2016 3:50 PM
Three Days to South Carolina: A Three-Way Battle For The Evangelical Vote

With three days to the South Carolina Republican primary and six remaining Republican contenders, we still have plenty of fireworks going off in the 2016 race. Saturday’s debate in Greenville was arguably the most entertaining of the election and was a perfect lead up to this weekend’s vote.

Here’s just a glimpse into the status of each candidate’s campaign. Who’s topping the polls? Who’s targeting whom? This week, we have a potential lawsuit pending between frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and a three-way battle for the evangelical vote in the Palmetto State.

Donald Trump: Trump is still running away with South Carolina and has an early commanding lead in Nevada. In this week’s round of insults, he called Cruz “unstable” and made fun of Jeb’s bifocals, before again pushing him to get out of the race.

Ted Cruz: On Tuesday, Cruz unveiled his plans to rebuild the military, intending to beef it up to at least 525,000 soldiers. His campaign continues to target Rubio for his immigration record, linking him to President Obama in a new ad. Meanwhile, Cruz finds himself fighting for the evangelical vote that was once considered his solid base. Both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio are cutting in to his conservative Christian support. On Wednesday, Cruz dared Trump to make good on his threat to sue him for a campaign ad he put out attacking the businessman for his former pro-choice views.

Marco Rubio: While Cruz has been sharing his plans to build defense plans, Rubio has been attacking Cruz for his record of voting to cut defense spending. On Wednesday, he gained another major endorsement: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. With an 80 percent approval rating in the state, Haley’s support could prove to be crucial for the senator in Saturday’s primary.

Jeb Bush: Time will soon tell if George W. Bush’s campaign appearance on behalf of his younger brother makes an impact in the race. Some pundits are calling South Carolina Jeb’s “last stand.” He is polling at 1 percent in Nevada.

John Kasich: A new USA Today/Suffolk University poll concluded that the Ohio governor is the best Republican to beat Hillary Clinton in November. More than 49 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Kasich, while only 38 percent would choose Clinton. He has been focused on health care as of late, which his opponents have used as ammunition against him. While Kasich doesn’t support Obamacare, he nevertheless has promoted the expansion of Medicaid – not exactly a conservative agenda.

Ben Carson: The retired neurosurgeon nabbed his first endorsement from Congress. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) threw his support behind Carson because he is the one candidate who “understands the historic constitutional background” of the country, he said. While Carson is not faring well in the primaries, his team is depending on a “delegate gathering strategy” that could carry him to the convention.

Standings: The newest South Carolina PPP survey has Trump in front with 35 percent, Cruz and Rubio with 18 percent, Kasich with 10 percent and Bush and Carson with 7 percent. In Nevada, Trump is in front with a whopping 45 percent.

Democratic Primary

Nevada is turning out to be more of a contest than Hillary figured. In October, she was up 50 percent to Sanders’ 34 percent. Now, they are virtually even. Clinton has just a one point lead: 48 percent to Sanders’ 47.

As Mika Brzezinski said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday, never has there been a candidate so “universally underestimated.”