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Democrats Turn to S. Carolina, Republicans to Fla.

Interactive: Polling Analysis

South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary is considered pivotal for both parties. For Democrats, next Saturday's contest is the first time they will see a significant African-American vote. For the Republicans, it's a historical bellwether: Since 1980, the winner of the GOP primary has always gone on to win the nomination.

On Saturday, Arizona Sen. John McCain edged out former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Palmetto State, winning 33 percent of the vote to Huckabee's 30 percent.

Exit polls show seven in 10 voters in the primary described themselves as conservatives. More than half of them were religious conservatives, and Huckabee led among that group; however, other candidates, such as former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, siphoned off some of Huckabee's base.

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McCain had the advantage with veterans, who accounted for one in four Republican voters. He also did well among moderate Republicans and independent voters.

However, McCain won't be able to count on a boost from independents in Florida, where the Republicans are now focusing their efforts ahead of its Jan. 29 primary. Only registered Republicans can vote in that primary.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are gearing up for a fight in South Carolina this week. The candidates will debate in Myrtle Beach on Monday night.

Debbie Elliott talks to Andrea Seabrook from the campaign trail.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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