Trump defeats Haley in South Carolina Republican primary

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Donald Trump has won the South Carolina Republican primary, inflicting another defeat on Nikki Haley in the race to win the party’s presidential nomination — this time in her home state.

While Trump’s margin of victory will only become clear as votes are counted in precincts across the state, he had the support of more than 60 per cent of voters in South Carolina, while Haley had just 34 per cent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s final average of polls heading into election day.

The Associated Press called the race for Trump the same minute the polls closed in South Carolina on Saturday. At 7:35pm Eastern Standard Time, Trump held 55 per cent of the vote and Haley held 45 per cent, with 5 per cent of the votes counted.

“This is a fantastic evening, it’s an early evening,” Trump said during his victory speech in Columbia, South Carolina, shortly after the polls closed. “On November 5, we’re going to look at Joe Biden, we’re going to look him straight in the eye — he’s destroying our country — and we’re going to say ‘Joe you’re fired! Get out Joe’”

Trump’s win in South Carolina comes after convincing wins in the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses last month — and raises fresh questions about how much longer Haley will stay in the race.

Haley vowed ahead of the vote that she would continue to fight on, whatever the outcome in South Carolina, the state where she cut short her second term as governor in 2017 to serve as Trump’s ambassador to the UN. 

“South Carolina will vote on Saturday. But on Sunday, I’ll still be running for president,” Haley said in a speech this week at Clemson University, in Greenville, South Carolina. “We’re going to keep going all the way through Super Tuesday,” she added after voting on Saturday morning, referring to March 5, when more than a dozen states will hold primaries.  

Haley has spent heavily on campaign advertising, tapping a war chest filled by millions of dollars in donations from Wall Street and other deep-pocketed donors who have warmed to her Reaganite conservatism, considering her a viable alternative to Trump who is more likely to defeat President Joe Biden in a head-to-head contest in November. 

Betsy Ankney, Haley’s campaign manager, said on Friday that Haley’s campaign would make a “seven figure” ad buy with adverts to run across the Super Tuesday states in the coming days. Haley spent about $11.4mn on ads in her home state this month, according to AdImpact data — over $10mn more than Trump.

“The math is challenging” for Haley to win the nomination, Ankney conceded. “But this has never just been about who can win a Republican primary. This battle is about who can win in November.” 

A recent Marquette Law School poll found Trump and Biden virtually tied with voters nationwide, while Haley led Biden in a hypothetical general election match-up by 18 points.

To secure the Republican presidential nomination, a candidate must win an estimated 1,215 delegates from across the country before the official vote confirming the nomination at the party’s national convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in July.  

Trump already has 63 delegates thanks to his earlier victories in the primary race, and Haley has 17. Another 50 are up for grabs in South Carolina: 27 to the outright winner and the rest divided according to results in each of the state’s seven congressional districts. 

Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles, senior advisers to Trump’s 2024 campaign, issued a memo this week insisting “the end is near” for Haley. Citing public and private polling data, LaCivita and Wiles said Trump was on course to rack up enough delegates to win the Republican nomination by mid-March.

On Saturday, Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said Haley was “no longer living in reality” and “continues to gaslight voters and the media into believing she has a chance to win her home state of South Carolina and other states when she hasn’t received any type of real support or shown even a shred of momentum.”

“The primary ends tonight and it is time to turn to the general election,” Cheung added.

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