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Trump wins South Carolina, beating Nikki Haley in her home state

Published 02/24/2024, 06:06 AM
Updated 02/25/2024, 04:00 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in a Fox News town hall with Laura Ingraham in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S. February 20, 2024.  REUTERS/Sam Wolfe/File Photo

By Alexandra Ulmer, Gram Slattery and Nathan Layne

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) -Donald Trump easily defeated Nikki Haley in South Carolina's Republican contest on Saturday, extending his winning streak as he marches toward a third consecutive presidential nomination and a rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

The former president had been widely favored to win the Southern state, despite his litany of criminal charges and Haley's status as a native of South Carolina who won two terms as governor.

The big win bolstered calls from Trump's allies that Haley, his last remaining challenger, should drop out of the race.

But Haley, who outperformed expectations based on opinion polls, defiantly insisted she would fight on at least through "Super Tuesday" on March 5, when Republicans in 15 states and one U.S. territory will cast ballots.

Trump won with 59.8% support against 39.5% for Haley with 99% of the expected vote tallied, according to Edison Research. Statewide opinion polls before Saturday had given Trump an average lead of 27.6 percentage points, according to the tracking website 538.

"Forty percent is not some tiny group," Haley said of her vote share. "There are huge numbers of voters in our Republican primaries who are saying they want an alternative."

Trump has dominated all five Republican primary contests thus far - in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, the U.S. Virgin Islands and now Haley's home state - leaving Haley with no evident path to the Republican nomination.

Trump gave his victory speech in Columbia, the state capital, minutes after the polls closed and did not mention Haley, claiming his party's mantle as he looked ahead to November's general election.

"I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now," he said.

In recent days Haley had notably sharpened her attacks on Trump, questioning his mental acuity and warning voters he would lose the general election to Biden.

But there is scant evidence that a majority of Republican voters is interested in any standard-bearer except Trump.

Immigration, which Trump has made a focus of his campaign, was the number one issue for voters on Saturday, according to an Edison exit poll. Some 39% cited that issue, above the 33% who said the economy was their top concern.

Approximately 84% of voters said the economy is not so good or poor, highlighting a major potential weakness for Biden in November's general election.

Once again, however, exit polls also pointed to Trump's own vulnerabilities. Nearly one-third of voters said he would be unfit to serve as president if he were convicted of a crime.

Trump's first criminal trial is scheduled to begin on March 25 in New York City. He is charged with falsifying business records to conceal hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign.

He faces three other sets of charges, including a federal indictment alleging he conspired to reverse Biden's election victory in 2020. Trump has pleaded not guilty in every case and claimed, with no evidence, that the charges stem from a Democratic conspiracy to derail his campaign.

"A 20-point loss is better than a 30-point loss, but it's still another blowout defeat," Adolphus Belk, a political science professor at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, said of the South Carolina contest on Saturday.

"That said, Haley performed strongly with the sorts of voters a GOP presidential candidate needs to win in November: moderates and independents most especially."

'MY ULTIMATE AND ABSOLUTE REVENGE'

Both Trump and Biden have already begun looking ahead to November, with the president characterizing Trump as a mortal threat to U.S. democracy.

Before flying to South Carolina to watch primary returns on Saturday, Trump addressed a gathering of conservative activists near Washington in a 90-minute speech that painted a dark picture of a declining America under Biden.

He said if he beats Biden in the Nov. 5 general election it will represent a "judgment day" for the U.S. and "my ultimate and absolute revenge."

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy emerged as favorites for Trump's vice presidential pick, according to a poll of activists at the conservative conference. They each received 15% support.

Haley, whose foreign policy credentials are at the center of her campaign, has focused in recent days on Trump's stance toward Russia following the death of Alexei Navalny, the country's main opposition leader.

She criticized Trump for waiting days before commenting on Navalny's death and then for failing to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin. She also condemned Trump's recent remarks that he would not defend NATO allies from a Russian attack if he felt they had not spent enough on defense.

Haley had hoped that South Carolina's "open" primary, which allows any registered voter to cast a ballot, would lead to turnout among independents and even some Democrats determined to stop Trump.

But Edison exit poll data showed only 21% of voters considered themselves moderate or liberal, only slightly higher than the 19% who said the same in the party's 2016 primary.

Kelli Poindexter, a Democrat and transcriptionist who lives in Columbia, voted for Haley "simply to, maybe, cancel out one of the Donald Trump votes."

"I think he's dangerous," Poindexter said. "I think he's a threat. And if Democrats come out and give a vote to Nikki, it takes one away from him."

© Reuters. Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a South Carolina Republican presidential primary election night party in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S. February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Alyssa Pointer

But Kevin Marsh, a 59-year-old Republican and truck driver who also lives in Columbia, said he voted for Trump on Saturday because he trusts him more than Haley.

"She's more of a globalist and I just can't support that," Marsh said.

Latest comments

Donald Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump !
brainwashed, duped, and deluded...
She needs to stay standing in case T goes to jail.
Trump will 100% be a convicted felon before November make no mistake about that.
 Only poor fools go to jail. I assume he's going to stay in house arrest.
This an investing website...which I'm sure you don't do, put your name on it tiger paw.
Nikki Haley with the same sponsors as the Democrats. What a surprise she can't win in her state where people know her best. If S. Carolina doesn't want her, why should the rest of America?
 You obviously have no idea how dictations work, do you? Every single one of the millions killed, imprisoned by communists and dictators has a sentence, including Navalny. You Americans are ridiculous with the fake justice system and democracy you are trying to sell to the world....fix your Soros influence first then comment
Oleg how Russian of you....the Russian justice system is a joke. created to keep Putin and his cronies from hanging for the massive crimes against the Russian people.
you hate Soros Oleg, because you hat democracy and love being a Putin boot licker.
Let's go Brandon!
As Trump and his followers say time to get the black people in the fields and pick some cutton….what a psychotic group of people who still dont know that the south lost the civil war.
Kenny boy is still complaining because Republicans freed his ancestors slaves.
Hilarious to see the ignorance that is revealed by people thinking America's Democrats are anything like the communist left of other countries. One cab simply look at the economy under Biden to see how far from reality that is.
amazing to see the socialists mind at work. 🤣 they follow CNN like sheep
trump defeating a woman amongst south carolina republicans, by appealing to racists, bigots and religious freaks.. no surprise there...
Did you watch him?? or you lie like a Russian. Haven't you been told that lying is bad?
meow 😻
Minimus still complaining because Republicans freed his ancestors slaves.
Trump 2024. It’s inevitable.
LOL! Project much? I’m not the one with multiple personalities on these boards. That would be you, Kenny boy, NotBright and AK.
 meow
 funny how the libs don't want to talk about how the DNC hired Christopher Steele, the stooge who was paid to lie to the FBI about Trump-Russia collusion hoax when in fact, his sources were themselves a piece of Russian propaganda. The way the lib media ran with that fake news story and the lack of reversal once the story was proven to be fiction goes to show the US state-run media apparatus is alive and well.
Trump a president that embarrassed and trashed America for years.
Your personal problems are not interesting. Go to a psychologist, start working, do something
the bird brain is trump. what kind of people would vote for Donald Trump an XPresident that thought injecting bleach would cure covid19. who added 30% to the debt in 4 years. who brags about molesting women, and whose family took bribes from foreign dictatorships..
then there's the danger that Trump's actions have proven he's guilty of, to America's national security and his love affair with foreign authoritarian states, and their dictators.
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