DemDaily: South Carolina: Not The End of The Story

February 2, 2024

Nikki Haley placed a distant second to former President Donald Trump in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary Saturday, with approximately 40% to the frontrunner's 60%.

Trump wasted no time in claiming victory, taking to the stage three minutes after the polls closed to preempt Haley's comments.

In a rambling speech, Trump went from assailing Joe Biden for "destroying our country” along with the "millions of people coming from jails and mental institutions, terrorists crossing our borders" -- to falsely claiming that the auto workers (who have endorsed Biden) "are with us 100%" in tomorrow's Michigan primary.

While a decisive victory for Trump in Haley's home state, the former South Carolina governor was undeterred, declaring that the 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...Today is not the end of our story.”

According to exit polls, 31% of South Carolina voters said Trump would not be fit to serve as president if he’s convicted of a crime -- the same numbers that came out of Iowa and New Hampshire. 5% of those who voted for Trump said he would be unfit if convicted. 59% of Haley voters said they would not vote for Trump in the general election. Haley noted that nearly half of the voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire voted for someone not named Trump -- the GOP's “'de facto incumbent...That spells disaster in November.”

While many candidates at this point are forced to drop out of the primary due to a lack of funds, Haley's campaign continues to rake in contributions despite the odds against her. In January alone, she brought in $16.5 million -- far outraising Trump.

In a blow to those efforts, however, the ultra-conservative Americans For Prosperity (AFP) PAC, which is backed by the Koch network and has invested more than $31 million to boost Haley's candidacy, announced on Sunday that while they "wholeheartedly support her" in her fight against Trump, they will no longer be spending money on the race.

Haley defiantly reaffirmed her commitment to staying in the race through at least Super Tuesday, March 5, when voters in 15 states and one territory go to the polls. Her campaign has made a "seven-figure" ad buy aimed at those states.

While South Carolinians were casting their votes Saturday, Trump and his former primary rivals were speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual gathering of the country's most right-wing leaders. Over the last three years, the event has eroded into a promotional vehicle for the former President, and this year, a platform for his potential vice presidential picks.

Trump, as anticipated, defeated Haley 94%-5% in CPAC's annual straw poll, but the focus was on the additional question of who attendees would like to see as the former president’s vice president pick.

CPAC attendee's preference for Trump’s running mate: Kristi Noem (SD) and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy tied for first place with 15%, followed by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI) at 9 %, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY) and Senator Tim Scott (SC) at 8%, Congressman Byron Donalds (FL) at 7%, and Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake 6%. Former HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Governor Ron DeSantis (FL), and Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (AR) each received 5%, and conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, Independent presidential candidate Robert K. Kennedy Jr., Ohio Senator JD Vance and Haley were at 5%.

DemList will keep you informed.

DemDaily: The 2024 Presidential Primary Calendar
DemDaily: Nailing Nevada 2/7/24
DemDaily: Biden Kicks Off Primary Calendar 2/2/24
DemDaily: Haley Holds on After New Hampshire 1/24/24
DemDaily: Tonight's New Hampshire Democratic "Primary" 1/23/23
DemDaily: DeSantis Bows Out Ahead of New Hampshire 1/22/23
DemDaily: Trump Dominates First in Nation Caucus 1/16/23

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Kimberly Scott

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Resources: NBC, The Hill, Reuters, Washington Post, NYT, BBC

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