Haley’s dilemma in South Carolina: winning voters who like her, but love Trump


CONWAY, S.C. (AP) — For South Carolina conservatives, deciding whether nikki haley The record that warranted promotion to the Oval Office seems less about her experience and abilities and more about the person standing in her way: Donald Trump,

“MS. Haley did some good things as governor – but Donald Trump is that guy!” Doug Roberts, a retired electrician who wore a Trump T-shirt to a recent Haley rally, declared. “Donald Trump is no ordinary man.”

Haley, Trump’s last major Republican rival, faces a make-or-break challenge ahead of South Carolina’s February 24 primary election, which could be Trump’s last hurdle for a third consecutive Republican nomination. While Haley has talked about her comfortable position in her home state, interviews with nearly two dozen South Carolina Republicans since the New Hampshire primary reveal that Haley is struggling to win over those conservatives. who supported him twice for governor but have no resentment toward Trump for the presidency.

Debra Weiss, 66, of Myrtle Beach, heavily Republican, reflects Haley’s difficult path. Sitting among about 1,500 people listening to Haley on Sunday at Coastal Carolina University, Weiss praised the candidate as a “true conservative” and dismissed Trump’s quip that Haley is a Democratic stand-in. Weiss generally criticized Trump’s rhetoric but said he was not worried that Trump might become a convicted felon.

However, the most serious thing for Haley is that Weiss is still undecided.

“I wonder if Nikki would have more influence in Washington without all her baggage. I want to see if he’s strong enough. We know Donald Trump is strong,” Weiss said. “I hope Nikki can do that, bring it to a close… but I still love Trump.”

The winner of South Carolina’s Republican primary has won the nomination only once since 1980. This year’s contest is an unusual head-to-head battle between a former president and a typically popular home-state figure.

Both were once launched by the same conservative primary voters. As a state legislator in 2010, Haley defeated older, more established candidates in Republican primaries en route to winning two gubernatorial elections. In 2016, Trump won South Carolina’s 50 delegates after close results in Iowa and New Hampshire. It was his springboard for an impressive Super Tuesday performance that gave him an unassailable representative lead.

On paper, South Carolina offers the broad Republican coalition sought by Haley. It has a larger presidential primary constituency than other early nominating states; Voter turnout in 2016 was 740,000 – about 200,000 more than the turnout of Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada combined. Every Republican faction has a large presence in South Carolina: evangelicals and social conservatives; anti-tax Tea Party activists; National Security Hawks; Business-minded traditionalists.

The pressure to convert Trump voters was evident in Haley’s first campaign after defeating Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and finishing second in New Hampshire.

At two weekend rallies, Haley attacked Trump as too old, calling him “the other 80-year-old” in the race besides 81-year-old President Joe Biden. (Trump is actually 77.) He said Trump is too embroiled in “chaos and drama.”

She insisted that she did not get involved in Trump’s legal entanglement, but slipped in the reference to “four cases and … 91 charges.” He mocked her for throwing “temper tantrums” because she had not yet been eliminated and urged her to join him on the debate stage again. He vindicated his threat to punish anyone who supported him: “You can’t be President of the United States and serve everybody.”

His 45-minute speech, however, mixed conservative domestic policy views with tough national security discussions and highlights of his South Carolina record, particularly in the recruiting business.

“By the time I got out there, they called us the ‘Beast of the Southeast,’” she said, pausing to hearty applause.

His supporters appreciate the carefully crafted message.

“She’s been the most vocal candidate in this campaign,” Ralph Carter, a Southern Baptist pastor in Greer, said before a rally outside Greenville.

Carter endorsed Trump in 2016 and 2020. He said he knew “both times” that Trump did not reflect his personal values, but Carter said he wanted a Republican administration. January 6 Uprising“It was a breaking point,” he said. Carter declined to speculate on what Trump would do this November if he is re-nominated; He said Haley offers a clear solution for Republicans to avoid that choice.

For Daniel Schroder, a 38-year-old father of three, “It’s about character.” While his family was blocking a meeting with Haley, Schroder called Trump “bad for democracy” and said Haley “wants to have real conversation and debate.”

Haley emphasizes that a South Carolina win is not necessarily a must, but it is another step up from her roughly 20% share in Iowa and 43% share in New Hampshire — she said she has 17 delegates compared to Trump’s 32. While 1,215 are required to win. Enrollment.

“It’s too far,” he said over the weekend in his campaign debut after defeating Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and narrowing Trump’s lead in New Hampshire.

But his supporters understand the stakes.

“As a traditional Republican, we just have to stop Trump right here,” said Michael Gardner, a 54-year-old engineer from Anderson. “I’ve never been to political events like this before, but I’m in. I’m giving it straight to Trump’s friends and talking to everyone I can.”

Gardner said his only convert so far has been his wife, a Democrat. Schroder said: “Most of my friends, most of my family are still with Trump.”

Beyond the range of her supporters, Haley will also have to navigate the polarized factions generated by Trump among potential Republican primary voters.

“I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but she seems like another puppet,” said Michelle Kuzma, a 60-year-old retiree who moved from New Jersey after Haley’s tenure as governor. In an interview, Kuzma repeated conspiracy theories and far-right claims that Haley’s campaign was “paid for by the Democrats.”

Independent Victor Morgan, 41, said he wants to vote for Haley, but only if she takes on Trump directly. South Carolina voters do not register along party lines and do not choose which major party primary to run in each election cycle.

He loosely quoted Trump on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape Released in the last weeks of the 2016 general election, he said, “I want him to hold on.”

“I want him to give back everything he’s given,” Morgan said.

One attendee of the Haley event – ​​a participant in the insurrection – explained why she thinks Haley ultimately backed down.

Pam Hemphill served a federal prison sentence for her role in the insurrection. Since then she has withdrawn her views and has come out against Trump. She waited near the stage Sunday to ask Haley if she would pardon those who participated in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Hemphill said Haley initially avoided his question. So, Hemphill waited and asked again. “At that point she clearly said, ‘No,’ she would not forgive them,” Hemphill said.

Asked about Hemphill’s description, an aide to Haley pointed to a recent interview with NBC News and the Des Moines Register in which Haley distinguished between those who breached the Capitol and those who And rioters like Hemphill did that.

“The people who went in, who broke the law, that’s who they are — you have to hold them accountable,” Haley said. “You have to make sure they pay the price.”

Hemphill said she understands why Haley typically takes such stances only when asked — and not in her prepared speeches or paid campaign ads.

“This will hurt Trump voters,” Hemphill said. “He needs them.”


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