Nikki Haley Unlikely to be Saved by South Carolina
The key points from this article are that presidential candidate Haley faces a significant challenge in the upcoming South Carolina primary, despite her stronger-than-expected performance in the New Hampshire primary. South Carolina’s electorate is more conservative and evangelical than New Hampshire’s, and Haley’s coalition in New Hampshire consisted mostly of college-educated moderates and independents. Haley’s campaign is launching TV ads in South Carolina and she has planned a campaign event near Charleston.
Haley’s Momentum Meets Daunting Polls in South Carolina
Haley’s momentum from New Hampshire comes up against tough polls in South Carolina, a state where she would have slim chances without her local ties. Her upcoming campaign will be an expensive, month-long effort to change that perception.
Over the next month, Nevada and the Virgin Islands will hold mostly inconsequential GOP contests. Trump and Haley aren’t on the same ballot, and the Nevada state party will award its delegates in the caucus where Trump participates on Feb. 8.
The decisive moment is South Carolina on Feb. 24, a substantial gap from New Hampshire. It’s a crucial moment for Haley after her rise as Trump’s primary challenger post-Iowa.
Despite a stronger-than-expected performance in New Hampshire’s primary, Haley’s campaign faces an uphill battle, especially given South Carolina’s more conservative and evangelical electorate, among whom Trump has dominated so far.
According to the National Election Pool exit poll, Haley won 75% of moderate or liberal voters in New Hampshire, representing 34% of the GOP primary voters. These figures are expected to be considerably lower in South Carolina. Trump significantly outperformed Haley among self-identified conservatives in New Hampshire, winning 70% to Haley’s 28%.
Haley’s campaign is working to change this narrative, referring to her unexpected victory in South Carolina’s 2010 gubernatorial primary as evidence of her ability to campaign successfully. However, her previous support from prominent right-wing figures like Sarah Palin may not be enough this time as most of the state’s top Republicans are backing Trump.
For Haley to succeed, she needs a significant surge of Trump skeptics who usually don’t vote in Republican primaries. South Carolina does not have partisan voter registration, allowing anyone to vote in the GOP primary on Feb. 24 unless they voted in the Democratic primary on Feb. 3.
South Carolina lacks New Hampshire’s independent streak, and there hasn’t historically been a large bloc of party-switching voters in Republican primaries. Additionally, Biden’s push for a significant win in the Palmetto State could undermine Haley’s efforts to beat Trump on her home turf later next month. If Biden’s campaign is successful in mobilizing a large portion of the electorate, those voters would be ineligible to vote against Trump — and for Haley — in the GOP primary.
The South Carolina primary has a history of ugliness, including a racist smear campaign against John McCain in 2000. Already, Trump and his allies have been invoking Haley’s first name, echoing some of the attacks she faced in the 2010 race. The state’s Republicans wanted South Carolina to play a pivotal role, and with Trump failing to land a decisive victory against Haley in New Hampshire, it looks like they got their wish.
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