With Polls Showing a Strong Trump Lead, Can Haley Keep It Close In the South Carolina Primary?

Polls indicate former President Donald Trump has a strong lead over former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley ahead of Saturday’s Republican primary. Can Haley outperform expectations in her home state?


Polls indicate former President Donald Trump has a strong lead over former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley ahead of Saturday’s Republican primary. Can Haley outperform expectations in her home state?

  • Trump currently holds a 25-point lead over Haley in the Real Clear Politics polling average, 61.8 percent to 36.5 percent.
  • Even a 60-40 win, while a blowout in electoral terms, should be a worrying sign to a former president with 100% name ID who claims that GOP voters are fully behind him.
  • Haley, a former two-term governor of the Palmetto State, is hoping her local ties will help her close the gap with Trump.
  • A best-case scenario for her may be to outperform expectations with the hope of picking up her first primary win during the Super Tuesday contests on March 5.
  • Haley’s political operation will have the funds to keep her in the race as long as she wants – she even outraised Trump’s vaunted political organization in January, pulling in $3 million more than the frontrunner.
  • Trump only took in $13.8 million and spent much more than he raised, most of it on legal fees.

reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • “Haley vowed she is not exiting the race now, saying she will continue to compete in the primary past the South Carolina primary and through Super Tuesday on March 5,” CNN reported. “Haley’s remark come as she continues to challenge Trump for the GOP nomination, though he has won every delegate contest so far and holds a wide lead over Haley in her own home state, making many question the path forward for the former governor’s campaign.”
  • “Barring unexpected snags, the first results should start coming in soon after the polls close at 7 p.m., and full results should arrive within a few hours,” the New York Times noted. “When the Democrats held their primary in South Carolina on Feb. 3, the first results arrived within minutes, and The Associated Press was able to call the race for President Biden within half an hour. The Republican contest is more competitive, but for context, nearly all ballots had been counted by 10:45 p.m. in the Democratic primary.”
  • “If Haley does not win her home state, pressure will mount on her to retire from the race. But over the last two weeks, she has increasingly questioned Trump’s mental fitness and his capacity to campaign, given his mounting financial and legal troubles,” the Guardian observed. “Haley also argues that her campaign is a moral challenge to Trump, and she may pursue it much like Bernie Sanders’ continued campaigns in 2016 and 2020.”


  • The Wall Street Journal’s John McCormick reported from the ground in South Carolina, where Haley is trying to “hold back the Trump onslaught.” “South Carolina is a complex stew of politics. Evangelical conservatives are especially plentiful in the northwestern section of the state, while there are upscale enclaves along the Atlantic Coast and to the south of Charlotte, N.C., where there are more-moderate Republicans,” McCormick observed. “The state has a strong military tradition. Haley’s husband, Michael Haley, is currently deployed on a year-long mission in Africa with the South Carolina Army National Guard, something she almost always mentions in her stump speech.”
  • National Review’s Jim Geraghty highlighted some “eye-popping” poll numbers from the new Marquette Law School survey. The two elderly presidents are in a dead heat, with Trump leading Biden 51% to 49%, well inside the margin of error. Haley, by contrast, leads Biden by 18 points, 58% to 42%. Geraghty observed, “Numbers like this suggest that the general electorate is exhausted with Biden and begging the Republicans for some normal, non-crazy, non-geriatric, non-Trump option.”
  • “A strong woman who might be able to bring the United States together: Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s only remaining opponent, is indeed popular among many Republican women voting in South Carolina’s upcoming presidential primary,” Breitbart noted. “But Trump, the runaway favorite who has already won the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire easily, remains the top choice among many women voters even though he faces four criminal indictments and raises eyebrows with his unseemly, even outrageous comments.”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023