New Hampshire has spoken out — and with the South Carolina primary looming next month, voters are sharing their thoughts on the race between former Gov. Nikki Haley and former President Donald Trump — with one voter saying Haley won’t get his vote unless another Republican stands.
Trump leads Haley by about 40 points in the polls, yet the former UN ambassador is committed to staying in the race with a focus on what she calls “the beautiful state of South Carolina.”
So why does Haley think she can take on the former president in the South Carolina Republican primary, scheduled for February 24?
Haley’s history and Trump’s popularity
Haley’s home state of South Carolina is where she served two terms as a popular governor from 2011 to 2017. However, polls show that Trump dominates the ruby red state. According to opinion polls, the former president received 62%, compared to 25% for Haley Polling averages 538.
Trump also benefits from the support of a majority of the state’s Republican Party leaders, including Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, Representative Nancy Mace, and Governor Henry McMaster. Haley has a history with many of those supporters who backed Trump: McMaster is her former lieutenant governor; Haley appointed Scott to the Senate. She campaigned for Mace in the 2022 midterm elections.
Trump has shown he appeals to voters in South Carolina, too. In 2020, he won the state by 55% and in 2016 by 54%, according to the state Board of Elections.
Haley, who described herself as a “fighter” and “feisty,” pledged to stay in the race until at least Super Tuesday. With the South Carolina primary a month away, Haley faces a steep climb to the nomination — but she said the fight is far from over.
“New Hampshire is first in the country… not last in the country… this race is not over yet,” Haley said in her concession speech in New Hampshire.
She attacked Trump and vowed to show why South Carolinians should vote for her.
“The people of South Carolina don’t want a coronation, they want an election. And we’re going to give them one,” Haley said Tuesday night.
The Republican leadership does not seem to have confidence in Haley’s ability to defeat Trump.
“I look at the calculations and the path forward, and I don’t see that for Nikki Haley,” Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told Fox News on Wednesday. “I think she ran a great campaign, but I think there’s a very clear message from voters: We need to unite around our eventual nominee, which will be Donald Trump.”
What do voters in South Carolina say?
South Carolina is known for picking presidents. Since 1980, the party has reliably selected the GOP nominee with one exception: in 2012 with Newt Greengritch (Mitt Romney became the GOP nominee that year).
Trump, thanks to his strong support for South Carolina, is expected to win the state, and he said he plans to intensify attacks on Haley.
After winning the New Hampshire primary, he told the crowd: “I don’t get so angry, I break even.”
Haley, who said she was the only thing standing in the way of a Biden-Trump rematch, has announced a $4 million ad campaign in her home state and is using campaign supporters to help with grassroots efforts to target undecided voters in the state. Americans for Prosperity, which endorsed Haley in November, has raised more than $70 million, according to its most recent public filing. The group told ABC News they have knocked 315,000 people in South Carolina and will continue to knock until primary day.
However, that may not help the former governor. Chad Connelly, who served as chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party when Haley was governor, told ABC News that although people like Haley, they like Trump.
“People really believe that Trump is the guy who can stop and fix the problems they see across the country,” Connelly said. “I really don’t think this represents hatred for Nicky as much as it represents a deep love and appreciation for what President Trump has done.”
Anne Pace of Lexington, South Carolina, said she sees Haley’s record as governor as a sign of what she can accomplish as president. When Haley was governor, she encouraged South Carolina businesses to expand and saw employment increase by 400,000 people.
“I’m thinking very highly of Nikki Haley,” Bess said. “I think she’s the best candidate right now. The economy is hitting too close to home.”
But Frank Spaniel of Columbia, South Carolina, said he still considers her part of the “Republican establishment.”
“If she was the last Republican nominee, she would get my vote,” Spaniel said. “The one thing I like that’s positive is her stance — the way she’s approached the issue of abortion. But there’s a lot of other policies — I view them as part of the Republican establishment that I’m not happy with.”
ABC News spoke with Byess and Spaniel in November — before other major GOP candidates — such as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — dropped out of the race.
Eric Feuer, a voter from Columbia, South Carolina, said Trump’s legal problems would not prevent him from voting for the former president.
“If Trump is convicted, every American — I don’t care if you’re liberal, conservative, white, black, red, green or purple — should be deeply concerned about the way they are using the justice system to attack their own citizens.” “Political enemies,” Foer said in December.
Connelly said he believes it is only a matter of time before Haley withdraws, but Trump still has a long way to go before Election Day and will need all the help he can get.
“I think we’re in a very different place where I think you’ll see all the conservatives and Republicans coming together and trying to win this thing,” he said.
How does the South Carolina core work?
South Carolina has an open primary, meaning registered voters can cast a ballot in the Democratic or Republican primary. Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina does not require voters to register by party, but residents are allowed to vote in only one of the primaries. The last day to register is January 25th.
The primary is traditionally held on a Saturday and, unlike New Hampshire, allows early voting starting in mid-February. Over the summer, the South Carolina Republican Party moved the primary to 18 days after the Nevada caucus, allowing candidates nearly three weeks to saturate the state.
Debbie Ebling, who lives in Aiken County, South Carolina, told ABC News in December that she would be “disappointed” if the candidates didn’t come to her district.
“This means that each of the candidates takes our votes for granted,” she said.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com