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Trump wins South Carolina primary in rival Haley’s home state, moving closer to party nomination

Former US President Donald Trump extended his winning streak by handily defeating rival Nikki Haley in the South Carolina primary on Saturday (February 24). He is almost certain to win the Republican presidential nomination for the third time in a row and is expected to face Democratic President Joe Biden again.

Donald Trump prevailed in Nikki Haley’s home state, despite a litany of criminal charges against Trump and Haley, a South Carolinian who served two terms as governor.

According to data from Edison Research, with 92% of votes counted, Trump leads 59.9% to 39.4%, a lead of 20.5 percentage points. According to the US 538 polling website (FiveThirtyEight), all South Carolina polls before Saturday showed Trump leading by an average of 27.6 percentage points.

The landslide results intensified calls from Trump’s allies for Nikki Haley, Trump’s final challenger, to drop out of the race. Trump has dominated all five contests so far in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and now Haley’s home state, leaving Haley virtually elusive of the Republican nomination.

After the vote, Trump gave a “victory speech” to supporters in Columbia, the state capital of South Carolina. He said, “I have never seen the Republican Party as united as it is now.” When looking forward to the November election, he once again said Haley did not mention herself and described herself as the party leader.

Still, Haley’s vote share appears to be higher than expected, which may allow her campaign to argue that Haley has some momentum as the race expands to more states.

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“40 percent is not a small group,” Haley said, referring to her approximate vote share on Saturday. “We have a huge number of voters in our Republican primaries who say they want an alternative,” she said. Haley told supporters: “We need to beat Joe Biden in November… I don’t believe in Donald Trump. Trump can beat Joe Biden.”

Haley has significantly stepped up her attacks on Trump in recent days, questioning his mental acuity and warning voters that he will lose the November election. Still, there is little evidence that Republican voters are interested in any candidate other than Trump.

Trump dominates conservative voters. But the challenge he faces is that these voters only account for 37% of the voters in the November 2020 presidential election. Another 63% identified as moderates or liberals, and Trump lost to Haley in South Carolina in both categories.

Immigration was a focus of Trump’s campaign and the top issue among voters in Saturday’s Republican primary, according to an exit poll. About 39% of voters mentioned this issue, and 33% said the economy was their top concern.

About 84% of voters said the economy was in poor or poor shape, highlighting a major potential vulnerability that Biden could face in the November election.

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