Photos: South Carolina's Republican presidential primary

  • Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump celebrate his victory in the S.C. primary on Feb. 20, 2016.
  • A trump supporter attends his rally in Spartanburg, S.C. on Feb. 20, 2016.
  • Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump celebrate his victory in the S.C. primary on Feb. 20, 2016.
  • Donald Trump holds a rally in North Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Donald Trump holds a rally in North Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Donald Trump holds a rally in North Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Donald Trump holds a rally in North Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Donald Trump holds a rally in North Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Donald Trump holds a rally in North Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Donald Trump supporters rally in North Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Donald Trump supporters rally in North Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Donald Trump supporters rally in North Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally with Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) peaks through the curtain at a rally for Sen. Marco Rubio in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy participates in a rally for Sen. Marco Rubio in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally alongside Gov. Nikki Haley in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio arrives to his rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley joins Sen. Marco Rubio for a rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • Backstage directions at the presidential rally for Sen. Marco Rubio, Columbia S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • Supporters for Sen. Marco Rubio in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio holds a rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • People arrive to a rally for Sen. Ted Cruz in Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Sen. Ted Cruz holds a rally in Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Sen. Ted Cruz holds a rally in Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Sen. Ted Cruz holds a rally in Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Sen. Ted Cruz holds a rally in Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson speaks at a rally for Sen. Ted Cruz in Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • A supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz sports a pin at a rally in Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016.
  • Supporters cheer for Senator Ted Cruz at a rally in Charleston, S.C., Feb. 19, 2016. 
  • A supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes photos during a rally in Kiawah Island, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • A voter in Charleston, S.C. on Feb. 20, 2016.
  • Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush cheer during a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • Stickers for Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush are seen during a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks with a supporter during a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • A sign supporting Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is left behind at a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.
  • Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush arrives for a rally in Rock Hill, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016.

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Republican presidential candidates have been campaigning across South Carolina in anticipation of the state’s first-in-the-South GOP primary. With its winner-take-all method of awarding delegates, the Palmetto State holds importance for the rest of the 2016 race: A win here for front-runner Donald Trump would give him a significant lead over his fellow candidates.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll finds that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, however, has cut Trump’s advantage down to 5 points. Trump was leading Cruz by 16 points a month ago – the candidates now respectively have 28 percent and 23 percent of support from likely Republican voters in South Carolina. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has 15 percent in the new poll, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush trails him at 13 percent.

Cruz and Rubio have been in a fierce fight over which candidate is the race’s most conservative, messaging that could tip the scales in favor of one of them in South Carolina’s primary.

Bush, along with Rubio, is counting on South Carolina to start a much-needed comeback after a disappointing finish in Iowa and New Hampshire. He’s recently brought his brother, former President George W. Bush, out on the campaign trail in the hopes of inspiring voters.

The primary season has already seen some surprising results – many analysts expected Trump to win Iowa’s caucuses, but Cruz took home the victory, and John Kasich finished second in New Hampshire.

All photographs were shot on assignment by photographer Mark Peterson for MSNBC Photography as part of his on-going body of work “Political Theater” which examines the landscape of the American political system.

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