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© Getty Images North America, AFP | Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-02-21

US Republican Donald Trump widened his lead over his party’s presidential field Saturday, scoring a big victory in the South Carolina primary while further west, Hillary Clinton pulled out a crucial win in Nevada's Democratic caucuses.

The victories put Clinton and Trump in strong positions as the 2016 presidential election barreled toward the March 1 Super Tuesday contests, a delegate-rich voting bonanza.

"There's nothing easy about running for president," Trump said at his victory rally. "It's tough, it's nasty, it's mean, it's vicious. It's beautiful – when you win, it's beautiful."

No Republican in recent times has won New Hampshire and South Carolina and then failed to win the nomination.

Reporting from Washington DC, FRANCE 24’s Philip Crowther noted that Trump’s latest victory gave him “the key ingredient that candidates want, and that’s momentum. He won handsomely again in South Carolina. He won by a very wide margin in the last contest, in New Hampshire. This is two in a row now for Donald Trump. This from someone who was pretty much seen as a joker when he announced his bid for the presidency. Now, he has to be taken seriously by American voters and by the Republican establishment.”

Bush loses steam

The biggest loser of Saturday’s race was Republican establishment candidate Jeb Bush. After a poor showing in the first three Republican contests, the former Florida governor dropped out of the race.

"Tonight, I am suspending my campaign," an emotional Bush, who at times appeared on the verge of tears, said after hearing the disappointing result. "I'm proud of the campaign that we have run to unify our country."

‘Trump won handsomely again in South Carolina’

Bush’s exit from the 2016 race, Crowther said, means “the road to the nomination is that little bit wider and easier for Donald Trump at this moment.”

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, a pair of freshman senators, were locked in a race for second place in South Carolina. Bush and other candidates lagged far behind.

"This country is ready for a new generation of conservatives to lead this country into the 21st century," Rubio said of his strong finish, calling himself among the political children of former President Ronald Reagan.

‘This one is for you’

For the Democrats, Clinton's roughly 5-point win in Nevada eased the rising anxieties of her backers, who feared a growing challenge from Bernie Sanders. At a raucous victory rally in Las Vegas, she lavished praise on her supporters and declared, "This one is for you."

Clinton won the backing of voters who said electability and experience were important in their vote.

She capitalized on a more diverse Democratic electorate who helped her rebound after a second-place finish to Sanders in the New Hampshire primary.

"Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other," Clinton told her cheering supporters during a victory rally in Las Vegas. "This one is for you."

She said Americans are "right to be angry," but are also hungry for "real solutions."

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, congratulated Clinton on her victory, but then declared his campaign has "the wind at our backs as we head toward Super Tuesday" - the multi-state voting contests on March 1.

Clinton's victory could be vital in pushing back the Sanders challenge that has been tougher than almost anyone expected. Clinton narrowly won the leadoff caucuses in the Midwestern state of Iowa, but the Vermont senator had a runaway victory in the tiny northeastern state of New Hampshire.

Clinton now leads in delegates pledged to her at the Democratic Party's national convention in July, but only has a fraction of the number needed to secure the nomination. Her win means she will pick up at least 18 of Nevada's 35 delegates.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2016-02-20

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