NATIONAL NEWS

Trump wins South Carolina, easily beating Haley in her home state and closing in on GOP nomination

Feb 23, 2024, 9:02 PM | Updated: Feb 24, 2024, 9:02 pm

Mike Schmidt votes on the morning of the South Carolina Republican primary at Cayce United Methodis...

Mike Schmidt votes on the morning of the South Carolina Republican primary at Cayce United Methodist Church in Cayce, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Donald Trump won South Carolina’s Republican primary on Saturday, easily beating former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in her home state and further consolidating his path to a third straight GOP nomination.

Trump has now swept every contest that counted for Republican delegates, adding to previous wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Haley is facing growing pressure to leave the race but says she’s not going anywhere despite losing the state where she was governor from 2011 to 2017.

A 2020 rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden is becoming increasingly inevitable. Haley has vowed to stay in the race through at least the batch of primaries on March 5, known as Super Tuesday, but was unable to dent Trump’s momentum in her home state despite holding far more campaign events and arguing that the indictments against Trump will hamstring him against Biden.

The Associated Press declared Trump the winner as polls closed statewide at 7 p.m. That race call was based on an analysis of AP VoteCast, a comprehensive survey of Republican South Carolina primary voters. The survey confirmed the findings of pre-Election Day polls showing Trump far outpacing Haley statewide.

“I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now,” Trump declared, taking the stage for his victory speech mere moments after polls closed. He added, “You can celebrate for about 15 minutes, but then we have to get back to work.”

South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary has historically been a reliable bellwether for Republicans. In all but one primary since 1980, the Republican winner in South Carolina has gone on to be the party’s nominee. The lone exception was Newt Gingrich in 2012.

Trump was dominant across the state, even leading in Lexington County, which Haley represented in the state Legislature. Many Trump-backing South Carolinians, even some who previously supported Haley during her time as governor, weren’t willing to give her a home-state bump.

“She’s done some good things,” Davis Paul, 36, said about Haley as he waited for Trump at a recent rally in Conway. “But I just don’t think she’s ready to tackle a candidate like Trump. I don’t think many people can.”

At Haley headquarters on Saturday night, supporters waved her signs in front of a large projection screen showing Trump’s speech, blocking it from view. That, of course, didn’t make the defeat any less crushing.

About an hour later, Haley took the stage and said: “What I saw today was South Carolina’s frustration with our country’s direction. I’ve seen that same frustration nationwide.”

“I don’t believe Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden,” Haley said, later adding: “I said earlier this week that no matter what happens in South Carolina, I would continue to run. I’m a woman of my word.”

She said she plans to head to Michigan for its primary on Tuesday — the last major contest before Super Tuesday. Still, she faces questions about where she might be able to win a contest or be competitive.

Trump and Biden are already behaving like they expect to face off in November.

Trump and his allies argue Biden has made the U.S. weaker and point to the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and Russia’s decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Trump has also repeatedly attacked Biden over high inflation earlier in the president’s term and his handling of record-high migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump has questioned — often in harshly personal terms — whether the 81-year-old Biden is too old to serve a second term. Biden’s team in turn has highlighted the 77-year-old Trump’s own flubs on the campaign trail.

Biden has stepped up his recent fundraising trips around the country and increasingly attacked Trump directly. He’s called Trump and his “Make America Great Again” movement dire threats to the nation’s founding principles, and the president’s reelection campaign has lately focused most of its attention on Trump suggesting he’d use the first day of a second presidency as a dictator and that he’d tell Russia to attack NATO allies who fail to keep up with defense spending obligations mandated by the alliance.

Haley also criticized Trump on his NATO comments and also for questioning why her husband wasn’t on the campaign trail with her — even as former first lady Melania Trump hasn’t appeared with him. Maj. Michael Haley is deployed in the Horn of Africa on a mission with the South Carolina Army National Guard.

But South Carolina’s Republican voters line up with Trump on having lukewarm feelings about NATO and continued U.S. support for Ukraine, according to AP VoteCast data from Saturday’s primary. About 6 in 10 oppose continuing aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Only about a third described America’s participation in NATO as “very good,” with more saying it’s only “somewhat good.”

Haley has raised copious amounts of campaign money and is scheduled to begin a cross-country campaign swing on Sunday in Michigan ahead of Super Tuesday on March 5, when many delegate-rich states hold primaries.

But it’s unclear how she can stop Trump from clinching enough delegates to become the party’s presumptive nominee for the third time.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., complimented Haley while speaking to reporters at Trump’s election night party in Columbia but suggested it was time for her to drop out.

“I think the sooner she does, the better for her, the better for the party,” Graham said. Later, the senator was greeted with boos after Trump called him to the stage to address those gathered.

Trump’s political strength has endured despite facing 91 criminal charges related to his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden, the discovery of classified documents in his Florida residence and allegations that he secretly arranged payoffs to a porn actress.

The former president’s first criminal trial is set to begin on March 25 in New York, where he faces 34 counts of falsifying business records related to hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels in the closing weeks of his 2016 presidential campaign.

Biden won South Carolina’s Democratic primary earlier this month and faces only one remaining challenger, Dean Phillips. The Minnesota Democratic congressman has continued to campaign in Michigan ahead of the Democratic primary there, despite having little chance of actually beating Biden.

Though Biden is expected to cruise to his party’s renomination, he faces criticism from some Democrats for providing military backing to Israel in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Some in his party support a ceasefire as the death toll in Israel’s war has reached 30,000 people, two-thirds of them women and children. The war could hurt the president’s general election chances in swing states like Michigan, which is home to a large Arab American population.

___

Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and James Pollard in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

___

Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP and Will Weissert can be reached at https://twitter.com/apwillweissert.

National News

FILE - State Election Board member Rick Jeffares asks the crowd to settle down during a hastily pla...

Associated Press

Trump-friendly panel shapes Georgia’s election rules at long, often chaotic meetings

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia State Election Board, which once toiled in relative obscurity, now hosts raucous meetings where public comment spans several hours and attendees regularly heckle its members. The shift highlights how election administration has become increasingly scrutinized and politicized, particularly in Georgia and other states that President Joe Biden flipped for Democrats […]

40 minutes ago

FILE - This June 13, 2016 photo shows Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Florida. Thousands ...

Associated Press

Takeaways from AP’s investigation into DEA corruption, agent accused of rape

MIAMI (AP) — Thousands of secret law enforcement documents obtained by The Associated Press offer a never-before-seen window into a culture of corruption among U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents who parlayed the agency’s shadowy money laundering operations into a worldwide pursuit of binge drinking and illicit sex. Among the documents is a recovered WhatsApp chat, […]

43 minutes ago

FILE - Reggie Daniels pays his respects a memorial at Robb Elementary School, June 9, 2022, in Uval...

Associated Press

Uvalde school officer charged over actions during Robb Elementary shooting set to appear in court

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — A former Uvalde school police officer who was part of the slow law enforcement response to the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School is scheduled to appear in court for the first time Thursday. Adrian Gonzales was one of the nearly 400 law enforcement personnel who responded to the scene […]

50 minutes ago

This October 2014 photo obtained by The Associated Press shows then-U.S. Drug Enforcement Administr...

Associated Press

Secret DEA files show agents joked about rape in WhatsApp chat. Then one of them was accused of it.

MIAMI (AP) — In a WhatsApp chat that quickly devolved into depravity, a group of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents boasted about their “world debauchery tour” of “boozing and whoring” on the government’s dime. They swapped lurid images of their latest sexual conquests. And at one point they even joked about “forcible anal rape.” Within […]

60 minutes ago

Joe Ridenour sits for a portrait on the steps of the recreational vehicle he once called home in Ca...

Associated Press

Church sues Colorado town to be able to shelter homeless in trailers, work ‘mandated by God’

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) — Behind a church surrounded by rolling prairie on the outskirts of this Colorado town sits a donated RV that Joe Ridenour called home for a year after he lost his job during the pandemic. Being able to live in the RV, he said, allowed him to avoid returning to his […]

1 hour ago

Democratic presidential candidate Vice President Kamala Harris talks after receiving a briefing on ...

Associated Press

Harris plans to continue to build presidential momentum in speech to teachers union

HOUSTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris is slated to continue her days-old presidential push by speaking Thursday to the American Federation of Teachers, the first labor union to formally endorse her candidacy. Having emerged as the likely Democratic nominee after President Joe Biden exited the race, Harris plans to travel aggressively to spread her […]

2 hours ago

Trump wins South Carolina, easily beating Haley in her home state and closing in on GOP nomination