Billionaire businessman Donald Trump has won the Republican primary election in South Carolina. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton scored a much-needed win in the Nevada Democratic caucuses.
Trump breezed past his two closest competitors, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, to rack up his second consecutive win following the New Hampshire primary on February 9.
Saturday marks a possibly decisive victory for the New York businessman: Every Republican candidate who has won both the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries has gone on to win the presidential nomination.
In a victory speech frequently interrupted by applause and cheers - as well as brief asides by Trump's wife and daughters - the billionaire businessman railed against everything from Mexico and China to America's education system and Barack Obama, whom he referred to as a "political hack."
Speaking of the arduous challenge of running for president, Trump said: "It's tough, it's nasty, it's mean, it's vicious...it's beautiful."
Rubio and Cruz are in a tight battle for second place. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Ohio Governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson are trailing behind.
Clinton scores victory over Sanders
Earlier on Saturday, former Secretary of State Clinton managed a narrow victory in Nevada.
It was a much-needed win for Clinton, who suffered a major upset when Sanders pummeled her in the New Hampshire primary on February 9.
Clinton tweeted out a big thanks to her supporters following the result.
In her victory speech, Clinton railed against the societal barriers holding some Americans back. "We're going to build ladders of opportunity in their place so every American can go as far as your hard work can take you," she told an audience of cheering supporters.
Nevada was a key state for Clinton, whose supporters have long touted her credibility among Latino and minority voters as her silver bullet. Sanders, on the other hand, has generally struggled to win favor among those demographics.
Nevertheless, her marginal victory in a state that was once seen as a sure-fire win for her is a sign that Sanders remains a powerful opponent.
In his concession speech, the Vermont senator played down his loss, instead reiterating his core message of holding Wall Street accountable while lifting up the middle class and the poor.
Sanders soldiers on
"I am especially proud that here in Nevada ... we are bringing working people and young people into the political process in a way that we have not seen for a very long time," he told his supporters, adding that at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, "we're going to see the results of one of the great political upsets in the history of the United States."
Prior to voting, Clinton did the rounds on the Las Vegas strip, where she made a point of meeting with casino staff, many of whom are Hispanic.
"I need your help this morning," she said to an audience of casino employees earlier on Saturday.
Meanwhile, voters are casting their ballots in another key battleground state, South Carolina, where Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are neck and neck.
blc/bw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)