Why South Carolina matters in the 2016 election

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(CNN) – South Carolina hosts the “first in the south” primary with republicans voting February 20th, democrats a week later.  Known for its beaches and barbecue the Palmetto state is a republican stronghold.

Almost three-quarters of voters described themselves as somewhat or very conservative in the state’s last GOP primary and nearly as many, 65 percent, said they were born-again or evangelical Christians. And about a quarter said they were active or former military.

South Carolina is more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire, with a sizable African-American community — the vast majority of them, democrats.

You may recall South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, a rising star in the republican party made headlines last summer when she ordered the removal of the confederate flag from the statehouse in Columbia.

South Carolina is also known for some political “dirty tricks” in past primaries.  In 2000 telephone pollsters implied Senator John McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child.

In 2007 voters received a fake Christmas card claiming to be from Mitt Romney, suggesting the Mormon candidate favored polygamy.

This year a Charleston newspaper has an app asking its readers to report any “questionable campaign activity.”

The state has a history of picking a winner.  In five of the last six elections the winner of the South Carolina primary went on to win the GOP nomination.

The last three presidents, Obama, Bush and Clinton, all lost New Hampshire, but won South Carolina the year they were first elected.

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