Trump Wins South Carolina Primary, Bringing Him 1 Step Closer To GOP Nomination

The former president cruised to victory Saturday, handing Nikki Haley an embarrassing home-state loss and continuing his march to the nomination.

CHARLESTON, S.C. ― Donald Trump easily won the South Carolina Republican presidential primary on Saturday, handing Nikki Haley an embarrassing defeat in her home state and bringing him one step closer to officially becoming the GOP’s 2024 nominee for the White House.

Trump’s victory in South Carolina was never really in doubt. The former president led in polls of the race for months despite doing little campaigning and spending only a small amount on advertising. He secured support from the state’s top elected officials as soon as he entered the race, finishing a near-clean sweep after Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) dropped out and endorsed him last month.

Trump quickly claimed he had won overwhelmingly, speaking after several news organizations called the election in his favor moments after polls closed but before many vote tallies had been released.

“We won in a landslide,” Trump said, surrounded on the stage at his victory party by South Carolina state and federal politicians who had endorsed him. Trump’s RealClearPolitics average lead in polling ahead of Saturday gave him a 23.3-point cushion, though it was unclear early Saturday night if that would translate into his actual vote margin.

With big wins in all the early primary states, Trump now heads into Super Tuesday on March 5 ― when voters in 15 states and one U.S. territory go to the polls ― with a commanding delegate lead. His campaign expects to have the nomination locked up as early as March 12, even as he faces an unprecedented 91 criminal charges stemming from his efforts to overturn an election that he lost and his retention of classified information after he left the White House.

Trump’s first criminal trial is scheduled to begin March 25 in New York, where he is charged with falsifying business records dealing with hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Trump is awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court on whether to rule on his claims of presidential immunity from all prosecution.

“Lawyers are my best friend,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on Friday. “I campaign during the day and I go to the courtroom at night. It’s all I can do.”

He brushed off the charges against him as “bullshit” and cast himself as a martyr who is being persecuted because he is running for president.

“I’m being indicted for you,” he claimed at the rally.

Later, at an event with Black conservatives in the city of Columbia, Trump said that his indictments are “why the Black people like me.”

Haley, meanwhile, sought to persuade Republican voters in the closing days of the race that it was time to turn the page and side with a younger voice who eschewed “chaos” for competency and conservative governance. The former governor of the Palmetto State ― who once served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations ― slammed Trump for turning his back on U.S. allies abroad and aligning with authoritarians like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Donald Trump is siding with a man who’s made no bones about the fact he wants to destroy America,” Haley said at a rally in Georgetown, South Carolina, on Thursday.

Her increasing attacks on her former boss attracted some Republicans who opposed Trump and who believed that he was setting the GOP on an ugly path, but it was a segment of the party that has long since been shunned as a minority that is fading into the past.

“They’re all just about gone,” Trump boasted at his Friday rally, mocking his top GOP critics like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

Haley has vowed to stay in the race despite losing her home state, even though many think the writing is on the wall for her campaign. She has scheduled events across the country next week, including in Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado and Utah, spoiling plans by Trump and the GOP to unite under one banner and switch gears.

Trump on Friday suggested that Haley should perhaps become a Democrat, criticizing her for receiving donations from some in the opposing party.

“Republicans aren’t supporting her, they don’t like her, and they don’t like her policy. She’s essentially a Democrat,” the former president said. “I think she should probably switch parties.”

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