5 things to watch in the South Carolina GOP primary

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Voting in today’s South Carolina Republican primary ends at 7 p.m. ET.

Former President Trump is expected to win a landslide victory over his only remaining serious rival, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Mr. Haley was born and raised in the state and was twice elected governor.

If Trump wins, it would be a huge shock if the outcome were different, but he would win all four of the first primaries by landslides.

Here are five things to keep in mind.

Trump’s almost certain margin of victory

The average poll maintained by The Hill and Decision Desk Headquarters (DDHQ) gives Trump a 31-point lead.

If the actual outcome were similar or more favorable to President Trump, it would be implausible to argue that Haley poses a credible threat to the former president.

Trump won the Iowa caucuses by 30 points and the New Hampshire primary by 10 points. The third voting state, Nevada, held separate caucuses and primaries due to controversy. Trump was virtually unopposed in the caucuses, but his “none of the above” line received more votes than Haley in the primaries.

Of course, Haley could make the race even closer than the polls suggest. It may also be an expression of her loyalty to her homeland. Moderate, liberal-leaning South Carolinians who did not vote in the Palmetto State’s Democratic primary earlier this month could give her support to thwart Trump.

Still, Haley would need to outperform by a wide margin in the polls to make the nomination contest competitive.

A rough benchmark will be whether Haley narrows President Trump’s advantage to less than 15 points.

How far will Team Trump go to force Haley to resign?

Assuming the polls aren’t wrong by an absurdly large margin, Haley will lose in her home state.

Trump allies are already pushing for Haley to withdraw from the race. Those voices will become even louder if tonight’s results are largely as expected.

At President Trump’s final pre-primary rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on Friday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) walks out because Haley is “humiliated.” There is a need, while U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R) told The Hill. C.) said Haley’s continued attacks on Trump need to end.

“The Republican primary is over and Donald Trump is our candidate,” Sen. Tim Scott (RS.C.) declared from the stage.

Scott, Mace and Greene all support Trump. But if the former president wins by about 30 points tonight, the entire Republican Party could step up the pressure on Haley to resign.

Will Haley agree and resign?

According to an official statement from Haley’s camp, she will be participating in the race until at least Super Tuesday, March 5th.

In a conference call with reporters Friday morning, Haley’s campaign manager, Betsy Ankney, said the candidate had booked a “seven-figure” ad buy across the state for Super Tuesday.

“We know this is an uphill battle,” Ankney acknowledged. “We know the road is tough and the math is difficult. But this was never just about who can win the Republican primary. This battle is about who wins in November. I mean.”

Emphasizing his never-surrender mentality, Haley will commit to Michigan State on Sunday. The Wolverine State will hold primaries for both major political parties on Tuesday.

Haley’s campaign appears to be in good shape financially, reporting $16.5 million in revenue in January.

But candidates rarely telegraph that they’re dropping out until that happens. And Haley has at times said she needs to show continued momentum, hinting that she should do better here than in New Hampshire, where she received 43% of the vote.

It will be worth watching tonight to see whether Ms. Haley steps up her attacks on Mr. Trump or begins to scale them back. If she chooses the latter path, it could indicate that she is preparing to end the campaign.

Is Tim Scott moving up in President Trump’s ‘Veep Stakes’?

Mr. Trump praised Mr. Scott emphatically at Friday’s rally, raising some eyebrows.

The South Carolina senator had independently pursued the nomination this term, but failed to gain support and withdrew in November, long before an actual vote. Scott endorsed Trump in January.

On Friday, President Trump declared Scott “the greatest surrogate mother I’ve ever seen.” President Trump hinted at Scott’s abandonment of his campaign, adding that Scott “represents me far better than he represents himself.”

It’s easy to see why Scott would appeal to President Trump as a running mate. The popular senator, who never criticized former President Trump during his feud with him, is unlikely to overshadow Trump in the election campaign.

As the only black Republican senator, that could likely boost Trump’s standing among African-American voters.

President Trump’s list of running mates is long.

But it will be interesting to see how prominent Scott is in his media appearances tonight and tomorrow morning. If Scott appears to be given a leading role in the campaign, he could have a much better chance in the VEEP stakes.

Is Trump in charge of all districts?

If Trump continues to rack up wins, the race for delegates will soon become moot.

Still, the former president would no doubt want to clear out the 50 delegates at issue here.

Again, assuming no seismic upsets, Trump would win 29 of those delegates by winning statewide.

The remaining 21 delegates will be awarded to candidates representing each of the state’s seven congressional districts. Each district win earns her three delegates.

State experts believe Haley’s best chance to win at the district level is in District 1 on the south coast, anchored in and around Charleston. If Haley ends up leading the 2nd or 6th Districts, it would be an unexpectedly good night for her.

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