Trump, Clinton burnish status as front-runners

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton are cementing their status as presidential front-runners with strong performances among demographic groups at the core of their two parties. The developments put tremendous pressure on their top rivals as the nominating contests head into delegate-rich March.

Exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and television networks show it was Trump’s surprisingly strong performance among self-described evangelical conservatives in South Carolina that helped him notch another double-digit victory and sweep all 50 delegates. It was a grave blow to Ted Cruz, who invested heavily in his pursuit of religious conservatives here only to finish a narrow third behind Marco Rubio.

For Democrats, Clinton’s Nevada caucus victory over Bernie Sanders affirmed her strength among non-white voters, who, like white evangelicals for Republicans, will play key roles in upcoming primaries.

Among South Carolina Republicans who voted Saturday, more than seven in 10 described themselves as born-again Christians. Those voters were slightly more likely to say they voted for Trump (33 percent) than Cruz (27 percent).

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