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The South Carolina Republican Primary and Its Impact on Super Tuesday

Written by Akshar Patel

Edited by Queenie Lin and Annika Lilja

Post edited at 5:51 PM CST on March 14, 2024


Image by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

On the 24th of February, 2024, South Carolina voters waited in ballot lines to cast their votes for their state’s Republican Primary. With all other significant competitors having dropped out after a crushing defeat in Iowa, the primary had now turned into a battle between former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and former President Donald Trump. 


Haley was elected twice as South Carolina’s governor in 2011 and 2017, so hopes were high for her and her supporters before the election. With the support of major super PACs like SFA Fund Inc. and Americans for Prosperity Action, she spent over fifteen million dollars on political advertisements—almost 17 times what Donald Trump’s affiliates spent. 


Even with these advantages, polls conducted in the weeks before the election told an altogether different story. Despite her best efforts, Haley still trailed behind Trump by an average of around 25-30 percentage points due to a mix of factors, ranging from the highly conservative base of South Carolina disagreeing with her more moderate positions to her unpopular enthusiasm to support Israel and Ukraine. Many Republican voters saw Haley as the “establishment” candidate even when her own advertisements claimed otherwise. 


Like many others in the early stages of the primary, the former governor often branded herself as an alternative to Trump instead of a distinct candidate with separate positions. This helped her win over the anti-Trump GOP vote but also made her highly unpopular with the pro-Trump Republicans who form the vast majority of the party’s base. When the 24th of February came and ballots were counted, the results largely matched the polls: a resounding near-30-point victory for Trump. Surrounded by his political allies in a victory speech in the town of Columbia, the former president didn’t bother to even mention, let alone attack, his main opponent in the primary. To him and many of his voters, the primary was already decided, which is why he instead spent the speech touting the unity of the GOP and striking Biden as if he were competing in the general election. 


Despite facing a resounding loss in her home state, Haley decided to continue her campaign, likely in the hopes that either Donald Trump’s legal troubles or old age would force him to drop from the race. Her hopes weren’t farfetched—the former president is only four years younger than Biden and still needs to pay over $500 million in fines imposed on him in both his New York civil fraud trial and his defamation trial against author E. Jean Carroll.


Still, as Trump crushes primary after primary, his prospects are looking brighter by the day. On the 4th of March, 2024, the Supreme Court ruled just in time for Super Tuesday that states like Colorado or Maine could not withhold Trump’s name on their ballots. Polls heavily favor him in every state, and Haley has only won Vermont and the District of Columbia so far.


South Carolina represented the last hope for Haley to create a shakeup in the GOP, but when Trump won that primary, signifying that he still controlled the party. After a resounding failure in the former governor’s home state, donors like the powerful super PAC Americans for Prosperity withdrew their support for Haley as her chances to make a comeback grew lower by the day. 


In an interview with Fox News, Trump admitted, “My focus is really at this point, it's on Biden.” 


As Super Tuesday came and went, Donald Trump expectedly won every single state except for Vermont, awarding him 92% of the 865 delegates available that day. Begrudgingly facing the reality of her campaign’s minimal success, Haley announced the morning after her loss on Super Tuesday that she would withdraw from the GOP primary. 


Trump, now the presumptive nominee for his party, is heading straight into a rematch with incumbent president Joe Biden, the last thing Americans want according to recent polling. One Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll found that in swing states like Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, 82% of voters believed Biden or both candidates were too old and 59% of voters found Trump or both candidates to be too dangerous. 


Of course, even though Trump and Biden are the likely candidates, things are subject to change. Trump still has to fight many legal battles and Biden’s age could possibly catch up to him before the election. No matter the candidates, it’s clear that the 2024 presidential election is shaping up to be the most impactful the country has had in a long time.


*This article was written over the span of a few weeks. As of March 14, 2024 both Trump and Biden have clinched their respective parties and are the presumptive nominees.

 

Sources:


Bradner, Eric, et al. “Takeaways from Super Tuesday.” CNN, 6 Mar. 2024, www.cnn.com/2024/03/06/politics/takeaways-super-tuesday/index.html.


Fernandez, Madison. “Haley Has Far Outspent Trump on Ads in South Carolina.” Politico, 24 Feb. 2024, www.politico.com/live-updates/2024/02/24/south-carolina-gop-primary-2024/haley-sc-ad-spending-00143092.


Hanrahan, Tim. “Trump Predicts Wins in ‘Every State’ on Super Tuesday.” WSJ, 5 Mar. 2024, www.wsj.com/livecoverage/super-tuesday-primary-election-2024/card/trump-predicts-wins-in-every-state-on-super-tuesday-XhkHv01MzIOeVZaarYkG.


Kinnard, Meg, and Will Weissert. “Trump Wins South Carolina, Easily Beating Haley in Her Home State and Closing in on GOP Nomination.” AP News, 24 Feb. 2024, apnews.com/article/donald-trump-nikki-haley-south-carolina-primary-republicans-13237d287ce770e0a45e9bccee78e8ee.


Lee, Ella, and Zach Schonfeld. “Supreme Court Hands Trump Victory in Colorado 14th Amendment Ballot Challenge.” The Hill, 4 Mar. 2024, thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/4506318-supreme-court-trump-colorado-14th-amendment-ballot-challenge/.


McCammon, Sarah. “Conservative Megadonors Koch Not Funding Haley Anymore as She Continues Longshot Bid.” National Public Radio, 25 Feb. 2024, www.npr.org/2024/02/25/1233831166/nikki-haley-americans-for-prosperity-afp-koch-brothers-network-donors-trump.


Offenhartz, Jake. “Trump’s Legal Debts Top a Half-Billion Dollars. Will He Have to Pay?” AP News, 17 Feb. 2024, apnews.com/article/trump-fraud-carroll-fines-82d423b8e7a7f9a32470729c5f4410e5.


Panetta, Alexander. “Nikki Haley Risks Home State Humiliation against Trump in South Carolina.” CBC, 24 Feb. 2024, www.cbc.ca/news/world/haley-trump-sc-primary-lookahead-1.7123327.


Sink, Justin, et al. “Trump, Biden Ride Super Tuesday Wins to 2024 Rematch Few Want.” Bloomberg, 6 Mar. 2024, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-03-06/trump-tightens-grip-on-nomination-with-virginia-tenn-nc-wins.


Yoon, Robert. “What to Expect in the South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary.” AP News, 21 Feb. 2024, apnews.com/article/south-carolina-republican-primary-what-to-expect-5b8ea70466d4ff1505ffe32633e11b0a.


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