A Defiant Haley Vows to Continue Campaign After Trump’s Landslide Win In Her Home State of South Carolina

Nikki Haley vowed to continue her quixotic presidential campaign at a rally with supporters in Michigan on Sunday, one day after suffering a sizable defeat at the hands of former President Donald Trump in the South Carolina primary.


Nikki Haley vowed to continue her quixotic presidential campaign at a rally with supporters in Michigan on Sunday, one day after suffering a sizable defeat at the hands of former President Donald Trump in the South Carolina primary.

  • Trump defeated Haley by a 60% to 40% margin in her home state, a decisive win that nonetheless was smaller than the polls had predicted. Trump ignored Haley in his victory speech and tried to turn the page to focus on his likely rematch with President Joe Biden.
  • Trump benefited from establishment support in South Carolina as the state’s old guard closed ranks behind the septuagenarian former president. His backers included Gov. Henry McMaster, a career politician, and moderates like Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Nancy Mace.
  • Americans For Prosperity Action, a powerful and well-funded conservative outside group backed by the Koch network, announced it would end its financial support for Haley after her loss in South Carolina. AFP Action plans to continue to support Haley but will focus its resources on the battle for Congress.
  • Despite these setbacks, Haley made it clear she’s not going anywhere at a rally in Troy, Michigan. ““You look at those first early states. They can say Donald Trump won. I give him that. But he, as a Republican incumbent, didn’t get 40% of the vote of the primary,” she pointed out.
  • “So the issue at hand is he’s not going to get the 40% if he’s going and calling out my supporters and saying they’re barred permanently from MAGA,” Haley continued. “He’s not gonna get the 40% by calling them names. He’s not going to get to 40% by trying to take over the RNC, so it pays all his legal fees. 
  • “He’s not going to get the 40% if he is not willing to change and do something that acknowledges the 40%,” Haley argued. “Why should the 40 percent have to cave to him?”

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  • The New York Times’ Nate Cohn offered “three theories for why Trump’s primary results are not matching expectations.” The former president has underperformed his polls in every primary so far, which could portend good news for Democrats in November if the pattern repeats itself in the general. Cohn’s three theories all carry bad news for Trump: that undecided voters flocked to Haley in the final weeks; that polls are overestimating MAGA voters, and that there are “hidden Biden voters” who are turning out at rates that pollsters are missing.
  • The Washington Post broke down the South Carolina exit polls and found Trump’s win was powered by “strong support from White evangelical Christians and voters without college degrees.” Trump carried nearly every cohort of voters over Haley, with the exceptions of college graduates (54%-45% Haley), independents (62%-37%), moderate/liberal voters (74%-25%), late deciders (67%-32%), and voters who are not white evangelical Christians (55%-44%).
  • “The influential network associated with billionaire Charles Koch will no longer throw its money behind former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the Republican presidential primary and will instead focus on key Senate and House races,” CNN reported. “Network officials had previously stressed that the Senate, in particular, would be a top priority for its investments, arguing that flipping the chamber represented the best chance of guarding against full Democratic control in Washington.”


  • Haley may have “no path to victory, but her fans don’t care,” reported the Wall Street Journal’s Molly Ball. Despite the quixotic nature of her campaign, she still notched “40% of the vote, a remarkable showing for a candidate with no plausible path to victory.”
  • The South Carolina “exit polls provide a good example of why it’s hard to sway voters on the basis of electability,” wrote National Review’s Philip Klein. Haley’s argument that she would be the better general-election candidate against Biden is backed up by polling. However, “voters are not psephologists, soberly analyzing polling data before making their decisions in a completely unbiased manner. Instead, if voters like somebody, they’re likely to say that their candidate is the most electable.”
  • The Washington Examiner’s W. James Antle III tried to examine why Haley is staying in the race. “It’s possible that Haley expects to be vindicated by a bigger-than-expected Trump loss to Biden. Or that after Trump’s not-too-thinly veiled innuendo about her marriage, her erstwhile boss is now in Vivek Ramaswamy territory and she truly does not care,” Antle observed. “How long donors continue to back her campaign will also determine Haley’s staying power in the primary.”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023