June 24, 2024 10:13 am

South Carolina primary: Donald Trump easily defeats Nikki Haley in her home state

Donald Trump is one step closer to the Republican presidential nomination after a massive win over Nikki Haley in South Carolina.

The former president won his primary opponent’s home state by a 20-point margin, his fourth consecutive victory.

As he celebrated, Mr Trump made no mention of Ms Haley, who vowed to stay in the race. Instead he set his sights on the general election in November.

That will be a likely rematch with his successor in the White House.

“We’re going to look Joe Biden right in the eye,” he told supporters minutes after US media projected him as the winner on Saturday night.

“He’s destroying our country – and we’re going to say ‘get out Joe, you’re fired’.”

Mr Trump lauded his party’s “unity” after Saturday’s result, saying: “There’s never been a spirit like this. I have never seen the Republican Party so unified.”

It marked a shift from his response to last month’s primary in New Hampshire, where he raged against Ms Haley for “doing a speech like she won”.

Ms Haley, who once served as a popular two-term governor of South Carolina, congratulated her opponent on his victory in her speech.

She promised not to quit, however, saying the roughly 40% of the vote she received was “not some tiny group”.

“There are huge numbers of voters in our Republican primaries who are saying they want an alternative,” she said, emphasising that her continued campaign was not about her own political ambitions.

“I’m not giving up this fight when a majority of Americans disapprove of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” she added.

She has re-committed to staying in the race until at least Super Tuesday – 5 March – when voters in 16 states will cast their ballots on the same day.

“I’m a woman of my word,” the former UN ambassador said. “We’re headed to Michigan tomorrow, and we’re headed to the Super Tuesday states throughout all of next week.”

Nikki Haley, who said she would not bow out of the race in her speech after the South Carolina primary on SaturdayIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

Nikki Haley’s said she would not bow out of the race in her speech after the South Carolina primary on Saturday

The Trump campaign dismissed Ms Haley’s continued effort in a statement on Saturday, stating that her “delusion is clouding her judgement, and she is no longer living in reality”.

It has predicted the former president will accumulate enough delegates to formally clinch the nomination within the next month.

Ms Haley does not have a clear path forward – her opponent has a large lead in the delegate count and is polling far ahead in all future contests.

And yet the Haley campaign is still standing, in large part due to contributions from deep-pocketed donors. That flow of cash has continued despite her facing long odds.

Ms Haley raised $16.5m in January alone, campaign officials said. That was her largest monthly total so far, and much more than Mr Trump’s numbers.

To drive home the point that he believes the primary has now ended, Mr Trump wasted no time in making his victory speech moments after the race was called, not allowing Ms Haley to speak before him as she had done in New Hampshire.

Nearly two dozen allies flanked Mr Trump during his victory speech after the South Carolina primaryIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

Nearly two dozen allies flanked Mr Trump during his victory speech after the South Carolina primary

Flanked at his podium on the Columbia state fairgrounds by nearly two dozen allies, including most of the state’s political leaders, he told a raucous crowd: “This was a little sooner than we anticipated.”

Mr Trump certainly has much to boast about with this win. Exit polling conducted by the BBC’s US partner, CBS News, shows that the ex-president bested Ms Haley with both men and women, and among all age groups. He also drew strong support from white evangelicals and voters who identify as very conservative.

Thanking them for their support, Mr Trump, 77, reminded his audience: “We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Andre Chang, 21, told the BBC that Mr Trump is still the only candidate willing to fight the establishment, particularly the “unelected political regime” of bureaucrats and technocrats that govern Washington DC.

“With the Democrats, it’s like we’re playing Russian roulette with a handgun,” the University of South Carolina senior said.

“Well Trump is a revolver. And I want to spin the barrel again.”

Mr Trump believes in “supporting the nation of Israel”, Noel Caldwell, 85, said.

“And not only that, Trump did such a good job – we built up our military and he kept the border closed down and he kept inflation down. Now those things are no longer being taken care of by the administration,” the Lake Murray resident added.

Ms Haley failed to garner traction despite her homefield advantage because voters did not like “the way she has been criticising Trump”, according to Micah Rea, the national committeeman for the South Carolina Young Republicans.

He argued the writing is on the wall for her campaign and she should drop out for the good of the party.

Haley supporters, however, described their votes as taking action against “demagoguery” and the danger they believe Mr Trump poses to democracy.

“America always likes a great underdog, and I think she’s got that,” said Sian Owens.

“Donald Trump is mired down. How much focus can he give to our country with all these legal problems?”

The former president faces the first of four criminal trials next month.

He is also now on the hook for more than half a billion dollars, the combined total of two recent civil trial rulings against him in New York – one for sexual assault and defamation, and another for business fraud.

As Mr Biden racks up a sizeable cash advantage over him in what will likely be the most expensive presidential race in US history, Mr Trump is increasingly relying on donations to cover his soaring legal costs.

It appears the Republican Party could come to his aid. He has consolidated his hold over it by endorsing key allies to lead its national committee.

His daughter-in-law Lara Trump, his pick to take over as co-chair of the Republican Party, has pledged to “spend every penny” of party funds on his legal defence.

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