Haley courts independents, Democrats as she aims to avoid a blowout to Trump on her home turf

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Nikki Haley on Saturday sought to stop President Donald Trump’s campaign from predicting a “disaster” in her home state of South Carolina by reaching out to independent voters.

“This is an open primary,” Haley emphasized in an interview on “Fox & Friends” this week.

“Unless you voted in the February 3rd Democratic primary in South Carolina, anyone can vote in the primary,” said the former two-term governor of the Palmetto State who later served as U.N. ambassador under the previous president’s administration. You can vote.”

Trump is running for the White House three times in a row and is the Republican front-runner in 2024. He won a majority of votes in last month’s Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, and came close to winning the nomination with landslide victories in the Nevada and Virgin Islands caucuses earlier this month.

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Former President Trump gestures to the crowd at a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, on February 14, 2024. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Final polls in South Carolina showed Trump maintaining a large double-digit lead over Haley, the former president’s last major rival.

Haley scored 43% in New Hampshire, where she lost to Trump by 11 points. But while independent voters have long played an important and influential role in the nation’s first primaries, they are less of a factor in South Carolina’s more conservative districts; Evangelical voters enjoy a prominent position in Republican races.

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A Monmouth University poll of last weekend’s South Carolina primary showed Trump holding a 72% to 25% lead among Republicans, similar to his performance with Republican voters in New Hampshire. Trump was questioned. Meanwhile, Haley held a narrow lead among independents, 53% to 46%.

The problem for Haley is that nearly two-thirds of those sampled in the survey identified themselves as Republicans, while only 28% said they were independent.

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Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, former two-term South Carolina governor and later ambassador to the United Nations, greets supporters after a speech in Greenville, South Carolina, on February 20, 2024. (FOX News/Paul Steinhauser)

Dave Wilson, a longtime Republican consultant based in South Carolina, said he remains neutral in the primary, but noted that “there is no party registration in this state.”

“They’re targeting what would be considered independents and swing voters,” Wilson said, referring to Haley’s campaign. “There aren’t that many in South Carolina. In this state, it’s either Republican or Democratic. ” he said.

He added that the Haley campaign and its allies are “so opposed to Donald Trump that they think it’s okay to walk into a Republican booth and pick her name just to vote against Trump.” We’re trying to find people who are there,” he added.

Haley’s supporters are also pitching Democrats who did not vote in the relatively low-turnout presidential primary earlier this month to vote in the Republican race.

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“Even if you did not vote in the Democratic primary on February 3, you are eligible to vote on February 24.” Mail sent to Democratic voters from the state’s super PAC SFA Fund, which is allied with Haley. thing.

“Your vote can make a difference,” the email poster emphasized. “Vote for Nikki Haley, get involved and make your voice heard.”

Haley repeatedly vowed to move forward regardless of Saturday’s outcome. Michigan’s next race will be held on Tuesday, which is also an open primary.

Nearly 800 delegates will gather on Super Tuesday in early March, and over 150 delegates will be up for grabs over the next two weeks. Among the states that hold elections on Super Tuesday are delegate-rich California and Texas, while other large states such as Florida, Illinois and Ohio hold winner-take-all races on March 19. A primary election will be held. Polls in many of those states show Trump with a wide lead over Haley. .

But Haley’s campaign points out that 11 of the 16 Super Tuesdays are not restricted to registered Republicans.

Campaign manager Betsy Ankeny emphasized in a recent memo that there is “important fertile ground for Nikki” in the upcoming open primary.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly criticized Haley for courting independents and some Democrats.

“Democrats are funding her and she’s in the game. And I think she just can’t get out of it, she can’t get out on her own. She’s got public opinion. She’s doing poorly in the polls. Look, if she had done it, ‘Well, I understand that, but she’s in very bad shape,'” President Trump said Tuesday at a Fox News town hall in Greenville, South Carolina. Told.

The next morning, Haley fired back in an interview on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

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“He can keep saying I have big Democratic donors. At the same time, look at his disclosures. But I don’t ask my donors if they’re Republican, Democrat or independent,” she said. Told.

“We’re fighting in the Republican primary, and there are a lot of independents who left the Republican Party because of Donald Trump. We’re bringing them back. … We’re bringing back the Reagan Democrats. “And Republicans need to remember that this isn’t about kicking people out of the party. So I’m working well with everyone, not just Republicans, not just independents. There is.”

Ryan Williams, a veteran Republican strategist and communicator, said: “It’s up to each state to choose the process. … That’s generally the states’ rights principle that Republicans have supported for a long time.”


Williams, a veteran of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, said when Romney won the nomination more than a dozen years ago, “We were essentially the establishment. “They tried to bring in independents to offset what looked like a rotation of conservative challengers.”

“We liked independent voters and were looking at the general election,” Williams recalled. “We wanted to get independents to vote for us in the primary who would hopefully survive until the general election.”

Get the latest on the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more with Fox News Digital’s Election Hub.



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