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Takeaways from South Carolina primary: Donald Trump鈥檚 Republican home field advantage is everywhere

老澳门六合彩 has declared former President Donald Trump the winner of the South Carolina primary over Nikki Haley as polls closed statewide. Here is why AP called the race for Trump and the comprehensive survey we used. (February 24)

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NEW YORK (AP) 鈥 Donald Trump trounced Nikki Haley on Saturday in the South Carolina primary, a victory that emphatically punctuated the depth and breadth of his support among Republican primary voters as he vanquished his lone remaining major opponent in her home state.

Trump did not even have to mount a vigorous campaign, making few appearances and spending relatively little money. Haley has vowed to stay in the race and planned to visit Michigan, the site of the next primary, on Sunday. But the loss further eroded the rationale for her candidacy, barring something unforeseen that would derail the former president.

Here are some takeaways from the South Carolina leg of the campaign:

ALL (REPUBLICAN) POLITICS IS NATIONAL

Haley talked up her chances in 鈥渕y sweet state of South Carolina鈥 for months. Twice elected governor, initially as a tea party candidate in 2010, she was universally known in her state, and mostly for positive reasons. She had even served as Trump鈥檚 ambassador to the United Nations. Her conservative record was clear.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

And yet her credentials were no match for Trump鈥檚 hold on the party.

Trump has now won with ease in the Midwest, the Northeast and the South, bulldozing any regional differences that had existed in the party before his rise.

Haley talked in 2024 about her successes recruiting industry to South Carolina and signing tax cuts and voter ID laws. She promoted her international experience. She excoriated Trump as too risky, too old, too busy fending off indictments, too close to Vladimir Putin and not close enough to NATO allies. Voters were not swayed.

AP VoteCast data reflected her challenge, especially on foreign policy. The survey found that about half of South Carolina primary voters wanted the U.S. to take a less active role in the world, and about half opposed continuing aid to Ukraine in its defense against the Russian invasion. They were instead strongly aligned with Trump鈥檚 vision.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump invites Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to speak at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump invites Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to speak at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Everything Haley tried reinforced the dynamics: To most Trump loyalists she sounded like just another politician offering establishment positions and trying to topple their champion.

HALEY STILL HAS ALMOST NO OBVIOUS OR EVEN LIKELY WINS

Haley repeated that she plans to stick around. The Michigan primary is Feb. 27. Haley already has campaigned there and run advertising. The big prize follows, Super Tuesday on March 5, when about a third of Republicans鈥 2,429 total delegates are at stake across primaries and caucuses in 15 states and one territory. Haley鈥檚 campaign manager, Betsy Ankney, notes often that many states that follow South Carolina have the same open primary rules. But not all of them. And that didn鈥檛 translate into a win at home anyway.

California, a majority-Democratic state, does not have open primaries. So Trump, even in a state where he鈥檚 not broadly popular, will be the favorite in a Republicans-only setting. Michigan does have an open primary. But that鈥檚 a state where progressives and Arab American voters are pushing voters to cast 鈥渦ncommitted鈥 ballots as a protest against President Joe Biden鈥檚 approach to the Israel-Hamas war. Biden鈥檚 campaign is countering. So that gives Democrats their own fight, with no incentive to cross over.

In short, if Haley couldn鈥檛 win in South Carolina, her chances of victories ahead are slim. Her best shot at a victory could be in the Washington, D.C., primary next weekend, where Haley plans to make an appearance. Trump finished a distant third there behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2016.

WHAT REALLY FORCES CANDIDATES TO DROP OUT

Presidential campaigns rarely end directly because of primary losses and delegates counts. They end when a candidate can鈥檛 keep the lights on anymore. And sometimes donors keep giving long after the scoreboard says it鈥檚 practically over.

Often, that鈥檚 the case when there is a real ideological fight within a party 鈥 see Bernie Sanders in 2016, when the democratic socialist was the vessel for progressive anger at Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party old guard. This time, for Republicans, it is a blend of personality, identity and ideology. Haley is the stand-in for all Republican check writers who loathe Trump and his version of the GOP.

And it鈥檚 these anti-Trump Republicans who keep paying her campaign鈥檚 bills. It isn鈥檛 about delegates. So when Haley insists she is staying through to Super Tuesday, it鈥檚 because she has the resources to do so. At some point, if she doesn鈥檛 have a dramatic reversal, those resources will dry up.

But this campaign has a major asterisk. Trump is facing more than 90 criminal charges in multiple jurisdictions, injecting unparalleled uncertainty into the race.

SPEECHES AND SPIN ASIDE, IT鈥橲 ABOUT DELEGATES

Haley鈥檚 determination aside, the ultimate numbers that matter are not on her fundraising reports. It鈥檚 the delegate math. And Trump was on pace to win all 50 delegates in South Carolina, widening his lead and making it increasingly clear that he will reach the 1,215-delegate majority long before the end of the primary calendar in late spring.

VP AUDITION HOUR, FEATURING SEN. TIM SCOTT

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who dropped his own presidential bid in November, enjoyed an extended spotlight in the unofficial contest to become Trump鈥檚 running mate. First appointed to the Senate in 2012 by Haley, he was Trump鈥檚 most visible surrogate in South Carolina, often heaping praise on a former president who can never seem to get too much validation.

Trump certainly noticed.

鈥淗e鈥檚 been such a great advocate,鈥 Trump said at a Fox News town hall with Scott beside him. 鈥淗e has been much better for me than he was for himself. I watched his campaign and he doesn鈥檛 like talking about himself, but boy, does he talk about Trump.鈥

Scott would give Trump loyalty and effective advocacy, without upstaging a former president who is always the headliner. Scott, as the only Black Republican in the Senate, also could appeal to Trump in his quest to increase GOP support from non-white voters.

But Trump has been known to flatter those who fawn over him, then make another choice.

THE BIDEN COALITION DID NOT SAVE HALEY

Haley never explicitly asked Democrats to help her against Trump, but she might as well have. She often reminded South Carolinians, who do not have to register by party, that the primary was open to all voters except the 125,000-plus who already had cast Democratic primary ballots Feb. 3.

She needed some of the remaining South Carolina Democrats, plus independents, to essentially give her a GOP version of the coalition Biden assembled against Trump in 2020. In a South Carolina Republican primary that would mean heavy support from wealthier, more moderate, college-educated white voters, especially around Columbia and Charleston. But Haley also needed at least some backing from Black voters in those areas and across small-town South Carolina.

It didn鈥檛 happen.

Bill Barrow covers U.S. politics. He is based in Atlanta.