Arizona Senator John McCain has won the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina. In Columbia, VOA's Brian Wagner reports McCain won 33 percent support, over 30 percent for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
The victory gives Senator McCain a boost as he battles for the lead in the Republican presidential race with Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Exit polling showed that McCain drew strong support in Saturday's vote from moderate Republicans and voters who described themselves as independents.
In a series of campaign stops across the state, McCain emphasized his military experience, and his proposals for government spending cuts and national security improvements.
During a victory speech, McCain thanked supporters for showing confidence in his leadership and his policies.
"We can overcome any challenges as long as we keep our courage, stand by our defense of the free markets, low taxes and small government that have made the United States the greatest land of opportunity in the world," he said.
The outcome was a vindication for John McCain who lost the state primary to President Bush in 2000, following a negative advertising campaign against the Arizona senator.
In his speech, McCain also recalled that since 1980, no Republican has gone on to win the White House without winning the state's primary.
Exit polls showed that support for Mike Huckabee was strong among evangelical Christian voters in South Carolina.
In a concession speech, Huckabee thanked his campaign staff and supporters, saying he will move on in upcoming primaries to seek the party's nomination.
"This is not an event, it is a process. And the process is far, far from over," he said.
Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson finished in third place in South Carolina, narrowly ahead of Mitt Romney.
Romney campaigned briefly in South Carolina earlier this week before moving on to Nevada, where we won the caucus there Saturday by a large margin. Shortly after giving a victory speech in Nevada, Romney traveled to a rally in Florida, which holds Republican and Democratic primaries on Tuesday, January 29.
The attention returns to South Carolina next Saturday for the Democratic presidential primary.