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Donald Trump cruised to victory in the South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday, racking up his second electoral win in a row in the ever-fractious GOP race for president.

Trump's victory in South Carolina comes on the heels of his commanding win in New Hampshire earlier in February. As in that race, he benefited from a large and divided field of challengers. As with seemingly everything about Trump, his victory came despite a string of controversies that might have felled other candidates, including his denunciations of George W. Bush and his war of words with Pope Francis.

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Speaking at a victory rally, Trump was exultant, saying, "When you win, it's beautiful." He predicted that he would defy pundits who suggested that a field with fewer candidates would hurt him as the race moved on.

"As people drop out I'm going to get a lot of those votes also," he said. "You don't just add them together. I think we're going to do very, very well."

There were signs before the polls closed that South Carolina's electorate was inclined towards Trump; fully 75 percent of respondents to an exit poll said they favored his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

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With Trump comfortably ahead, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio found themselves locked into an extremely tight battle for second place, with Rubio finishing just ahead. On one level, the result was not too relevant; Trump locked up all of the state's electoral delegates. Still, both men gave what were essentially victory speeches.

Rubio was typically bullish at his rally.

"After tonight, this has become a three-person race and we will win the nomination," he declared.

Cruz also gave a barnstorming speech, claiming that he was the only candidate who could beat Trump. "If you are a conservative, this is where you belong, because only one, strong conservative can win this race," he said.

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One man who wasn't so lucky was Jeb Bush. Trailing badly in fourth place, he dropped out of the 2016 race altogether.