Fact check: Did Trump really win “double the votes” in SC GOP primary?

When the Associated Press called the race at 7:00 p.m, the crowd of former President Donald Trump’s supporters at the SC state fairgrounds watch party roared in celebration. “Proud to be an American,” blasted through speakers as Trump came on the stage.

“Wow, that was really something,” Trump said. “It was a little sooner than we anticipated, and an even bigger win than we anticipated. I was just informed that we got double the number of votes than has ever been received in the great state of South Carolina.”

Not even 10 minutes after polls closed, Trump said he was told he had “double the number of votes than has ever been received.” How did he know that? Likely from exit polling or projections like what campaigns and media organizations use to ‘call the race.’

The Associated Press has declared winners in more than 5,000 contested races over the years, before the final ballots are counted. In an article about how they call races, they wrote “Only when AP is fully confident a race has been won – defined most simply as the moment a trailing candidate no longer has a path to victory – will we make a call.”

Up until 2016, AP used exit polls, but stopped because many voters don’t vote at polling places on election days anymore. Now, they use a survey called APVoteCast, accounting for the rise in votes cast before election day.

“AP VoteCast takes interviews with a random sample of registered voters drawn from state voter files and combines them with interviews from self-identified registered voters selected using nonprobability approached,” they wrote.

John Michael Catalano, a spokesperson for the state election commission, said nothing official had been released, when Trump made his speech.

“What he said could have been maybe based on projections, but we have not finished counting ballots yet so we can’t confirm that at all,” Catalano said at 7:30, about 20 minutes after Trump made the statement.

Did he end up with double the previous mark?

Before Saturday, the record for votes since 1992 South Carolina primary was held by George Bush, who had 305,998 in 2000. Former President Barack Obama won 298,898 of the votes in the Democratic primary in 2008.

Catalano said before 2008, parties did their own data for primaries.

In 2020, South Carolina didn’t hold a Republican presidential primary. In 2016, Trump won the primary at 32.51% with 240,882 people voting for him. This was just under Newt Gingrich’s 244,065 in the 2012 Republican presidential primary.

The total ballots cast Saturday was a record for individual republican presidential primary, and the amount of votes Trump received was the most a candidate has received in a presidential primary,” Catalano said.

This year, Trump received 451,905 votes, but he was about 30,000 shy of doubling his past result, and about 160,000 short doubling Bush’s record in 2000; and almost 130,000 away from doubling Obama’s 294,898 in ‘08.

In 2012, there were 605,623 ballots cast. In 2016, there were 745,405 ballots cast. This year, there were 756,922 ballots cast.