COLUMBIA, S.C. - Donald Trump won the South Carolina Republican primary Saturday, reinforcing his status as the front runner for the party's presidential nomination with a broad coalition of voters frustrated with the status quo.

He was projected the winner at 7:32 p.m., with 1 percent of ballots cast counted, according to the Associated Press and other media.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida were running neck-and-neck for second place. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson trailed.

"Let's put this thing away, and let's make America great again,'" Trump told his supporters about 9 p.m., describing his campaign as a people's movement. "Wherever we go we fill up the arenas . . . the only thing that stops the crowds are the walls."

Trump benefited from a fractured field of center-right mainstream candidates, and his victory is sure to trigger efforts by party heavyweights to rally around one alternative to try to stop the populist real estate developer.

Fifty delegates to the GOP national convention were at stake. South Carolina Republicans award 29 delegates to the statewide winner, and another three to the top vote-getter in each of seven congressional districts.

About 8:40 p.m. Saturday, Jeb Bush, registering in the single digits, dropped his bid to become the third member of his family in the White House, saying he respects the verdicts of the people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina who rejected his candidacy.

"We must elect a president who knows he is a servant, not a master," Bush said, adding he would try to help do that as a private citizen. "I would like to congratulate my competitors remaining on the island."

Rubio, in a virutal tie for second place with Cruz, told supporters around 9:20 p.m. that race for the GOP nomination was now "a three-man race" among him, Trump and Cruz.

Rubio appeared to get a boost from winning the coveted endorsement of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who appeared with him Saturday night.

Cruz said that "only one strong conservative" was in the position to win the GOP nomination.

"We are the only campaign that has beaten and can beat Donald Trump," said Cruz, who won the Iowa caucuses. "That's why Donald relentlessly attacks us and ignores all the other candidates."



The Associated Press contributed to this report.