scorecardSouth Carolina GOP primary called immediately for Trump; Haley vows to stay in race
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South Carolina GOP primary called immediately for Trump; Haley vows to stay in race

John L. Dorman   

South Carolina GOP primary called immediately for Trump; Haley vows to stay in race
PoliticsPolitics2 min read
  • Former President Donald Trump has won the South Carolina primary, according to multiple outlets.
  • Despite former Gov. Nikki Haley's best efforts, she was unable to stave off Trump in her home state.

Former President Donald Trump has defeated former UN ambassador Nikki Haley in the South Carolina GOP presidential primary, a result that represents a significant blow to her campaign.

With more than 95% of all precincts reporting, Trump led Haley statewide by over 20 points (59.8%-39.5%).

CNN, AP, NBC, and others called the race for Trump immediately after polls closed at 7 pm ET. Early returns showed him dominating across most of the state, especially Upstate and in the Midlands region.

"Wow, that was sooner than we anticipated," Trump said at his victory party after the race was called. "We had an even bigger win than we anticipated."

The former president didn't mention Haley once in his victory speech.

For Haley, who is the last remaining major Republican candidate still challenging Trump, the defeat comes in the state where she once served as governor. But in her election night speech, she remained committed to the race.

"In the next ten days, another 21 states and territories will speak," she told a crowd of cheering supporters in Charleston. "They have the right to a real choice, not a Soviet-style election with only one candidate. And I have a duty to give them that choice."

"We can't afford four more years of Biden's failures or Trump's lack of focus," she added.

It was in South Carolina where Haley, first elected in 2010 in what was a strongly Republican cycle across the country, soared to prominence in national GOP circles.

The South Carolina primary is Haley's fourth consecutive loss in the early-voting states after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. (Trump won the Nevada caucuses; Haley lost the Nevada primary to "None of these candidates.")

Trump has long cultivated relationships with top Republican leaders in the state, which benefited him enormously during this primary cycle as most top Republicans in the state lined up behind him — and not Haley — despite the former governor's tenure in Columbia.

Haley now finds herself in the position of battling Trump ahead of Super Tuesday, when voters in a slew of delegate-rich states like California and Texas will cast ballots on March 5, which could accelerate the former president's momentum even further as he looks toward the general election in a likely rematch against President Joe Biden.

In recent weeks, Haley has ramped up her criticism of Trump, arguing that the former president is constantly surrounded by "chaos" and stating that the country can't afford to have him serve in the Oval Office once again. She has also criticized him on everything from his growing influence over party affairs at the Republican National Committee to his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin following the death of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny earlier in February.

But Trump's support among the GOP electorate nationally has so far endured. And after Saturday's primary loss, the path for Haley winning the nomination just got a lot more difficult.