February 19, 2000, 8:25 pm EST-- George W. Bush, the national front-runner, tonight won the Republican primary in South Carolina.
Bush claimed the victory as a turning point for his campaign.
"This is a strong statement from Republicans who are looking for someone who can unite our party," Bush told the Associated Press.
But Bush also said he was relieved by the comfortable margin of victory.
"Of course I'm relieved, but relieved is not the right word," Bush told reporters. "I'm excited and energized."
Senator John McCain's campaign manager called the results a "bump in the road" for his candidate and vowed to continue their efforts. McCain, who leads in polls Michigan and Arizona, was headed to the Great Lakes region this evening.
In conceding the South Carolina contest, McCain said he was still the stronger candidate and would not take the low road.
"This is a choice between experience and pretense," he said. "You don't have to win every skirmish to win a war or a crusade and though we fell a little short tonight, our crusade grows stronger."
The day was not without controversy. The McCain campaign called for a full investigation of the closure of some voting precincts in the Greenville, South Carolina area.
They maintain the state GOP had said they would have the precincts open for today's vote.