SC —Conway For South Carolina conservatives, Nikki Haley's record may not be enough to nominate her for president. Trump stands in her way. “Ms. Haley did some fine things as governor — but Donald Trump is the man!” said Doug Roberts, a retired electrician who wore a Trump T-shirt to a Haley event. Trump is “just not a regular man.”
Before South Carolina's Feb. 24 primary, Haley, Trump's final major Republican competitor, confronts a make-or-break stretch that might deny him a third consecutive nomination. Haley has talked about her comfort campaigning in her own state, but conversations with roughly two dozen South Carolina Republicans since the New Hampshire primary reveal she is trying to win over conservatives who voted her twice for governor but still support Trump for president.
Haley's arduous route is shown by 66-year-old Republican Myrtle Beach resident Debra Weiss. Weiss, one of 1,500 people who heard Haley at Coastal Carolina University on Sunday, called her a “true conservative” and refuted Trump's claims that she is a Democratic stand-in. Weiss condemned Trump's comments but didn't worry about a felony conviction.
Weiss is indecisive, which is crucial for Haley. "I wonder whether Nikki would have greater influence in Washington without his baggage. I want to test her strength. Weiss acknowledged Trump's strength. “I hope Nikki can close it... I still like Trump. Since 1980, South Carolina's Republican primary winner has won all but one nomination. A former president and a popular home-state politician face off in this year's tournament.
Both were founded by conservative primary voters. As a state senator in 2010, Haley defeated older, more established Republican primary rivals to win two governor races. Trump won South Carolina's 50 delegates in 2016 after tighter Iowa and New Hampshire results. It set the stage for his Super Tuesday dominance and insurmountable delegate advantage.
South Carolina appears to offer Haley's vast Republican coalition. In 2016, it had 740,000 presidential primary voters, over 200,000 more than Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada combined. Republican evangelicals, social conservatives, anti-tax Tea Party activists, national security hawks, and business-minded traditionalists are all present in South Carolina.
Haley's first campaign tour back home after defeating Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and coming second in New Hampshire showed the strain to convert Trump backers. Haley called Trump “the other 80-year-old” in the campaign, in addition to 81-year-old President Joe Biden, during two weekend rallies. (Trump is 77.) She claimed Trump is too involved in "chaos and drama.
She said she doesn't “keep up with” Trump's legal issues but mentioned “four cases and... 91 charges.” She chastised him for throwing “a temper tantrum” since she hasn't pulled out and invited him to dispute with her again. She called him spiteful for threatening to punish her supporters: “You can’t be president of the United States and not serve everyone
However, much of her 45-minute address covered conservative domestic policy, tough national security, and her South Carolina record, notably in recruitment.
She continued, “By the time I left, they called us the ‘beast of the Southeast,’” to loud applause. Her admirers applaud her well-written statement. “She has been the most articulate candidate in this campaign,” Greer Southern Baptist pastor Ralph Carter said before a gathering near Greenville.
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