I've tried to write these accounts of the primary contests as soon as possible after the events, to preserve the uncertainty and excitement of a primary night. Now, on a Monday evening, it has been two days since the Republican contest, and news has already moved on.
Coming into South Carolina,the big news was whether the departure of Chris Christie, who polled poorly in New Hampshire, would consolidate support behind an "establishment" candidate, who was seen to be either Marco Rubio, John Kasich or Jeb Bush. The thinking was that Donald Trump, who had a vocal but limited basis of support, would eventually have to start losing to a more organized, traditional candidate. The presence of Ted Cruz and Ben Carson in the race further confused the picture, but many (not not all) pundits thought the race would settle down.
But Trump finished first, with 32 percent of the vote, with Cruz and Rubio tied at 22 percent of the vote, and the other candidates leaving tied with 7% of the vote. Because of the way delegate allocation works in South Carolina, Trump got all of the state's delegates, despite getting less than a third of the vote. The immediate aftermath of the contest was Jeb Bush's exit from the race (or, in modern parlance "suspending his campaign"), which should lead to a support for Marco Rubio, besides that was also supposed to happen after Iowa and New Hampshire. Now, the path ahead seems to be a choice between two opposite unlikely options: that a candidate can stop Trump, who has deep pockets, nothing to lose, and has already pissed people off as much as he can, or that Trump, a candidate whose support seems to peak in the mid-30s will somehow unify the party behind him. In other words, we probably won't know until after Super Tuesday.