Election 2024

Former President Donald Trump wins South Carolina's Republican presidential primary

Polls in South Carolina close at 7 p.m. E.T. Check back for results

Election 2024 Trump Union
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event Jan. 27 in Las Vegas.
John Locher | AP

Updated February 24, 2024 at 7:08 PM ET

Former President Donald Trump has won South Carolina's Republican presidential primary, according to a race call from the Associated Press.

Trump has now won every contest where he was on the ballot. His win in South Carolina is not exactly a surprise, though. Trump was leading in the polls in this very conservative state throughout the entire race.

Trump has maintained a commanding lead in the party's presidential race despite facing a combined 91 state and federal charges. Many of those charges are related to his efforts to stay in office after losing the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.

Biden won the state's Democratic primary earlier this month with 96% of the vote.

This is a major blow to former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley's bid for the Republican nomination. South Carolina is Haley's home state and she was elected twice as governor there just a decade ago.

Despite the significant money and time spent by the campaign in South Carolina, Haley was unable to garner enough support in the state – including from leaders in the party. Trump remains very popular in the South and among more conservative voters in the U.S.

On Tuesday, Haley vowed to stay in the race even if she doesn't win the South Carolina primary.

"South Carolina will vote on Saturday, but on Sunday I'll still be running for president," Haley said during a campaign speech in Greenville, S.C. "I'm not going anywhere."

She also pledged that she would continue campaigning until "the last person votes." She later told NPR she would stay in though at least Super Tuesday, which is on March 5.

"I haven't actually sat down and thought about what comes after that," Haley said. "But our goal was between South Carolina and Super Tuesday, another 20 states have voted, and that's more of the representation we want, let people's voices be heard."

On Friday, her campaign announced they were launching a "seven-figure" national ad buy ahead of Super Tuesday.

Trump has mocked Haley for staying in the race. During a town hall event hosted by Fox News in Greenville, S.C., on Tuesday, Trump said, "I don't think she knows how to get out" of the race.

"I really don't," he said. "She just can't get herself to get out."

A closer look at South Carolina voters — and some hurdles for Haley

So far, Haley has been doing best among voters who are more moderate, as well as Republican voters who are open to an alternative to Trump. In New Hampshire, which has a large share of independent voters, Haley got 43% of the vote. Trump won the primary, though, with 54% of the vote.

Lynda Higgins, an independent voter in South Carolina, said she voted for Haley in the GOP primary because she liked the job she did as governor.

"I just like the way she managed the state. She did very well when we had hurricanes, disasters, things like that," she told NPR. "I like the way she's handled the state."

And while Higgins said she voted for Trump in the last two elections, she said she'd like to vote for someone else in the upcoming general election.

"I just think that it has become too much of a hot point in this country with there's just too much division," she said. "And I think he heads that."

Republican presidential candidate, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, left, in Greenwood, S.C., and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump in Conway, S.C., on Feb. 10.
Republican presidential candidate, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, left, in Greenwood, S.C., and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump in Conway, S.C., on Feb. 10.
AP

However, in South Carolina, voters are largely conservative, which presents significant hurdles for Haley. That's even though she was elected twice as governor of the state about a decade ago.

Republicans say the party has changed a lot in the state since then. Matt Moore, who previously served as the chairman of South Carolina's state Republican Party, told NPR's Don Gonyea that the GOP there is "a much different party than when Nikki Haley was governor."

"I would say that Nikki Haley is highly respected, first and foremost, but I do think people see a president differently than they see a governor or a member of a cabinet," he said. "She has run a very good textbook campaign. But the reality is that Trump has been the de facto incumbent of the party, and there's hardly anything anyone can do about it."

Fifty delegates are up for grabs in today's election. Twenty-nine of those delegates are awarded to the winner of the statewide vote. The other 21 delegates are divvied up according to who wins each of the state's seven congressional districts. Those are also awarded winner take all. The winner of each district is awarded three delegates per district.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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