World

Nikki Haley vows to fight on after Donald Trump wins in her home state

The former president continues to dominate the Republican race.

Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds
Donald Trump Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Donald Trump won South Carolina’s Republican primary, easily beating former UN ambassador Nikki Haley in her home state and further consolidating his path to a third straight nomination.

Mr Trump has now swept every contest that counted for Republican delegates, adding to previous wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and the US Virgin Islands.

Ms Haley is facing growing pressure to leave the race but says she is not going anywhere despite losing the state where she was governor from 2011 to 2017.

A 2020 rematch between Mr Trump and President Joe Biden is becoming increasingly inevitable.

Ms Haley has vowed to stay in the race through at least the batch of primaries on March 5, known as Super Tuesday, but was unable to dent Mr Trump’s momentum in her home state despite holding far more campaign events and arguing that the indictments against Mr Trump will hamstring him against Mr Biden.

Mr Trump was declared the winner by media as polls closed at 7pm.

That race call was based on an analysis of AP VoteCast, a comprehensive survey of Republican South Carolina primary voters.

The survey confirmed the findings of pre-Election Day polls showing Mr Trump far outpacing Ms Haley statewide.

“I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now,” Mr Trump declared, taking the stage for his victory speech mere moments after polls closed.

He added, “You can celebrate for about 15 minutes, but then we have to get back to work.”

South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary has historically been a reliable bellwether for Republicans.

In all but one primary since 1980, the Republican winner in South Carolina has gone on to be the party’s nominee.

The lone exception was Newt Gingrich in 2012.

Mr Trump was dominant across the state, even leading in Lexington County, which Ms Haley represented in the state Legislature.

Many Trump-backing South Carolinians, even some who previously supported Haley during her time as governor, weren’t willing to give her a home-state bump.

Republican presidential candidate former UN ambassador Nikki Haley speaks after the South Carolina presidential primary on Saturday (Chris Carlson/AP)
Election 2024 Haley Republican presidential candidate former UN ambassador Nikki Haley speaks after the South Carolina presidential primary on Saturday (Chris Carlson/AP) (Chris Carlson/AP)

“She’s done some good things,” Davis Paul, 36, said about Ms Haley as he waited for Mr Trump at a recent rally in Conway.

“But I just don’t think she’s ready to tackle a candidate like Trump.

“I don’t think many people can.”

At Haley headquarters on Saturday night, supporters waved her signs in front of a large projection screen showing Mr Trump’s speech, blocking it from view.

That, of course, did not make the defeat any less crushing.

About an hour later, Ms Haley took the stage and said: “What I saw today was South Carolina’s frustration with our country’s direction.

“I’ve seen that same frustration nationwide.”

“I don’t believe Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden,” Ms Haley said, later adding: “I said earlier this week that no matter what happens in South Carolina, I would continue to run.

“I’m a woman of my word.”

She said she plans to head to Michigan for its primary on Tuesday, the last major contest before Super Tuesday.

President Joe Biden is seeking a second term (Stephanie Scarbrough/AP)
Biden Governors President Joe Biden is seeking a second term (Stephanie Scarbrough/AP) (Stephanie Scarbrough/AP)

Still, she faces questions about where she might be able to win a contest or be competitive.

Mr Trump and Mr Biden are already behaving like they expect to face off in November.

Mr Trump and his allies argue Mr Biden has made the US weaker and point to the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and Russia’s decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Trump has also repeatedly attacked Mr Biden over high inflation earlier in the president’s term and his handling of record-high migrant crossings at the US-Mexico border.

Mr Trump has questioned, often in harshly personal terms, whether the 81-year-old Mr Biden is too old to serve a second term.

Mr Biden’s team in turn has highlighted the 77-year-old Mr Trump’s own gaffes on the campaign trail.

Mr Biden has stepped up his recent fundraising trips around the country and increasingly attacked Mr Trump directly.

He has called Mr Trump and his Make America Great Again movement dire threats to the nation’s founding principles, and the president’s re-election campaign has lately focused most of its attention on Mr Trump suggesting he would use the first day of a second presidency as a dictator and that he would tell Russia to attack Nato allies who fail to keep up with defence spending obligations mandated by the alliance.

Ms Haley also criticised Mr Trump on his Nato comments and also for questioning why her husband was not on the campaign trail with her, even as former first lady Melania Trump has not appeared with him.

Major Michael Haley is deployed in the Horn of Africa on a mission with the South Carolina Army National Guard.