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Trump defeats Haley in South Carolina, steamrolling toward nomination and fall rematch with Biden

Exit polling showed Trump's sigbature issue of immigration was top of mind in South Carolina.

Published: February 24, 2024 9:53am

Updated: February 24, 2024 8:51pm

Former President Donald Trump humiliated Nikki Haley in her home state Saturday night, scoring a convincing win in the South Carolina GOP primary that opens the door for him to focus full time on a fall rematch with Joe Biden.

With a third straight Republican presidential nomination in reach, the 45th president thanked his party for unifying behind him but made clear he would not rest with his fifth straight primary win of 2024.

“You can celebrate for about 15 minutes, but then we have to get back to work,” Trump said during a victory speech.

With 60% of ballots counted, Trump had a 20-point lead over Haley.

The Associated Press and TV networks projected Trump the winner just minutes after polls closed at 7 p.m. ET.

Exit surveys suggested turnout favored a big win for the 45th president as 45% of voters identified Trump’s signature issue of immigration as their top concern, according to Fox News.

AP said about six in 10 voters opposed additional Ukraine war aid while CNN said four in 10 identified as MAGA voters.

Trump has won South Carolina both times in his earlier presidential runs, and he was up more than 25 points in the final polls taken this week. Trump had 61.8% support in the Palmetto State, compared to Haley’s 36.5%, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. Nationwide, Trump’s lead in the polling average was much higher at 57.9%.

Haley has insisted she will stay in the race even if she lost her home state, where she served as governor. She doubled down on that promise Saturday night in a meeting with her supporters after Trump was declared the winner.

“I’m a woman of my word. I’m not giving up this fight when a majority of Americans disapprove of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden," she said.Hi

Experts say the loss for Haley in the state she once governed would be devastating for any future political ambitions.

“Losing your home state is the thing political obituaries are made up of,” Trafalgar chief pollster Robert Cahaly told Just the News recently.

Trump and his advisors are banking on Haley falling to irrelevancy with a crushing defeat in her home state, setting the stage for them to focus their fulltime attention to Biden and the fall election.

The 45th president began making the pivot recently, dropping his list of candidates for his vice presidential nominee, plotting to make changes atop the Republican National Committee and spending more time attacking the current president. He was expected to expand those attacks Saturday afternoon ahead of the primary with his keynote address at the CPAC convention in suburban Washington D.C.

“Joe Biden, because of his incompetence, is a big threat to democracy,” Trump said in a warmup speech earlier in the week to the NRB, the religious broadcasters group.

On Friday night, he gave a withering but humorous imitation of Biden trying to get off a stage after speeches, drawing huge laughs from a group of black conservatives in South Carolina.

Trump headed into South Carolina with a 4-0 primary record and 63 delegates compared to Haley’s 17. He was expected to pick up all 50 of the Palmetto State’s delegates with a win, marching closer to the 1215 GOP delegates he would need to secure his third straight presidential nomination.

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