Haley Makes Stand in Her Home State

Exit polls in South Carolina show support for Trump's positions
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2024 5:19 AM CST
Updated Feb 24, 2024 5:19 PM CST
Haley's State Votes as Exit Polls Show Support for Trump's Views
Nikki Haley gestures as she speaks with reporters after casting her vote in South Carolina's Republican presidential primary on Saturday on Kiawah Island, S.C.   (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

South Carolina residents voted Saturday in a Republican presidential primary, with Nikki Haley counting on her home state to close the gap between her and Donald Trump. The former president, who didn't campaign much in the state, planned to attend an election night watch party in Columbia. Haley, who toured South Carolina by bus, cast her vote Saturday in Kiawah Island with her family. The former governor planned to speak at a watch party in Charleston later, the New York Times reports. Most polls have Trump running 20 percentage points ahead, and early exit polls suggest he'll have a strong showing. Developments include:

  • Exit polls: More than 40% of the primary voters answering an exit poll said they're affiliated with the MAGA movement, per CNN. That means Saturday's voters resemble those in Iowa, where Trump dominated the GOP caucuses, more than New Hampshire's. The Washington Post reported that preliminary exit polling showed that more than 60% of primary voters said President Biden's 2020 election victory was illegitimate, another positive sign for Trump. And an AP exit poll showed about 6 in 10 voters oppose sending more military aid to Ukraine.
  • An open contest: Registered Democrats and independents are allowed to vote in the Republican primary. Kelly Missel told CNN she crossed over to vote for Haley. "Her campaign has been texting me three times a day, sometimes for weeks now, saying that you can vote," Missel said, adding that she thinks Haley hopes voters like her will "save her from Trump." Dave Mauldin, an unaffiliated voter, told NBC News he voted for Haley mostly to mess with Trump. But he predicted "the Trump wave is going to be like a tsunami."
  • The home team: Struggling in her own state, Haley listed what she said were her accomplishments as governor at a rally this week, per the Post. "We hunkered down, and we got to work," she said after being introduced as "South Carolina's favorite daughter." The familiarity hasn't helped with voters, said Terry Sullivan, a party strategist who worked for one of her opponents in the 2010 governor's race. "It's not like they don't know you well enough," he said. "It's pretty devastating if she loses."

  • Trump speech: He may have a good day in South Carolina, but Trump's speech Saturday in Maryland to the Conservative Political Action Conference had problematic elements. He repeated more than a dozen debunked statements, per CNN, in 90 minutes of what the Times called random stories before abruptly stopping and saying he was supposed to be somewhere else. If he's not elected, Trump said, health care, Medicare specifically, and Social Security will collapse, per the Times. The former president cast problems he didn't solve in office as complicated, referencing his inexperience in dealing with some of them, and those others haven't solved as simple. Crime in Chicago and New York, for instance, "could be solved in a day," he said.
  • What's next: While Haley and other Republicans have said she'll stay in the race no matter what the results in South Carolina, the state's Republican Party chair said Saturday she should rethink. "I think at this point, you got to do a lot of soul searching, no doubt about it," Drew McKissick said. "You reach a certain point where if you go too far, you begin to do yourself politically more harm than good."

Polls close at 7pm ET, but voters in line then will still be able to cast their ballot, per CBS News. (More South Carolina primary stories.)

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