Trump defeats Haley in South Carolina, a crushing blow in her home state

Trump defeats Haley in South Carolina, a crushing blow in her home state

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Republican presidential candidate, takes the stage at her election night watch party in Charleston, S.C. on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Donald Trump easily defeated Haley in South Carolina's Republican primary on Saturday. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)
Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Republican presidential candidate, takes the stage at her election night watch party in Charleston, S.C. on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. Donald Trump easily defeated Haley in South Carolina's Republican primary on Saturday. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former President Donald Trump easily defeated Nikki Haley in South Carolina’s Republican primary on Saturday, delivering a crushing blow to her hopes of gathering strength in her home state and casting grave doubt on her continued viability.

Trump’s victory, called by The Associated Press, was widely expected, and offers fresh fodder for his contention that the race is effectively over. Trump has swept the early states, and he is barreling toward the nomination even as a majority of delegates have yet to be awarded.

Trump has remained popular in South Carolina since his 2016 run, and polls before the primary consistently showed him with double-digit leads.

But Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and a United Nations ambassador during Trump’s administration, had hoped to buck the odds, and her loss at the hands of voters who are arguably the most familiar with her politics is likely to fuel further uncertainty about her path forward.

Haley has staked her campaign on drawing support from independents and more moderate Republicans, particularly in states where primaries are not restricted to voters registered with one party.

But that strategy fell short in New Hampshire last month — the early-voting state where she was most closely polling Trump — and in South Carolina, raising questions about whether it will succeed in Michigan, which holds its primary on Tuesday, and any of the 16 states that vote on Super Tuesday on March 5.

Still, Haley has insisted she will stay in the race at least through Super Tuesday, arguing that she is providing an alternative for voters opposed to Trump and maintaining that Americans deserve a chance to choose a candidate. Donors have continued to pour money into her bid, giving her the cash to keep going.

She will travel to Michigan on Sunday and has planned stops in a number of states before the Super Tuesday contests, when 36% of Republican delegates will be up for grabs.

“People want to see us continue this fight,” she said Saturday after casting her ballot in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. “And I think that it’s a good thing when democracy reigns, and I think it’s great for the Republican Party to have this competition.”

The Trump campaign has repeatedly signaled its desire to focus on the general election. During his speech Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, Trump did not mention Haley’s name.

He and his team have called on Haley to drop out of the race, pointing to his delegate tally and his lead in polls as proof that she has no mathematical path to the nomination.

Trump’s followers have outnumbered Haley’s at every turn of the contest so far. Even in Nevada, where Haley was the only candidate in a Republican primary that awarded no delegates, she was outvoted by a “None of These Candidates” option on the ballot. Haley did not campaign there, and her campaign shrugged off the symbolic defeat, but it generated days of embarrassing headlines.

In Conway, South Carolina, a relatively rural and deeply conservative region of the state’s northeast, voters said they had little love for their former governor.

“She’s a warmonger. She’s a RINO,” said Jeremy Vaught, 47, using the acronym for “Republican in Name Only.” Vaught cast his vote for Trump. And Rich Armstrong, 61, said he felt much the same way, criticizing Haley’s proposal to raise the retirement age. “I just don’t care for her,” he said just before voting for Trump.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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