Bulk of Republicans locked in on support for Trump
02/29/2024 // News Editors // Views

Republican voters delivered a decisive result for President Donald Trump in the South Carolina presidential primary. The former president demonstrated his command over Republican voters in the fourth and final early primary, defeating the state’s former governor Nikki Haley by 20 percentage points on Feb. 24.

(Article by Lawrence Wilson republished from TheEpochTimes.com)

“The people spoke for Trump,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told The Epoch Times, virtually waving a white flag over the Haley campaign, of which he had been a notable proponent.

Ms. Haley has vowed to continue her run for the White House at least through Super Tuesday, March 5, when 15 states will conduct presidential primaries.

Yet the overwhelming support for President Trump in South Carolina, which builds on the momentum generated in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, validates Mr. Norman’s assessment.

Neither legal battles, nor age, nor mean tweets, nor the outcome of previous elections will keep the party from nominating its favorite son.

Republicans want Donald Trump, and nobody but Donald Trump, and many appear immune to any argument to the contrary.

Age and Vitality

Ms. Haley has begun to criticize the former president, albeit gingerly. One line of attack was a veiled reference to his age and the insinuation that he represents an older generation.

Ms. Haley tied President Trump to incumbent President Joe Biden, whose age and mental acuity have become a concern to many voters. Ms. Haley frequently repeated polling numbers suggesting that 70 percent of Americans do not want either man in office, and said that electing either one would be voting for “more of the same.”

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Referring to herself as a fresher, more vigorous alternative, Ms. Haley often used the phrase “new generational leader.”

The idea sticks with many Haley supporters, who picture her as a fresher, more vigorous candidate.

“I don’t want either old man in the White House,” Haley supporter Diane Derusha, 75, of Mt. Pleasant told The Epoch Times.

However, the argument failed to persuade President Trump’s core voters in the Palmetto state, most of whom believe he is actually more fit for the job as leader of the free world than Ms. Haley.

Among Republican voters in South Carolina, 69 percent said Trump has the physical and mental health to be president, according to exit polling reported by CBS. Just 62 percent of them said the same of Ms. Haley.


Ms. Haley’s most direct attack on President Trump centered on his ability to win a general election. “Donald Trump can’t win,” she said in stump speeches. “He lost in 2018. He lost in 2020. He lost in 2022, and he continues to lose.”

Referring to polling data on hypothetical matchups between President Trump vs. President Biden and herself vs. President Biden, Ms. Haley told reporters in Columbia on Feb. 2, “Trump doesn’t defeat Joe Biden ... I defeat Biden.”

Indeed, a number of polls show that Ms. Haley would fare better in the general election than would President Trump. The latest, conducted by Marquette University, shows Ms. Haley with a 16 percent lead over President Biden. Other polls show a lead of about 3 percent.

Polls involving President Trump have shown him winning by about 2 percentage points. Others indicate that he would lose to President Biden.

Haley supporters are well-attuned to that polling and are convinced Ms. Haley is the more electable candidate.

“If you look at the big picture, do we want to win?” Melanie Sabelhaus, co-chair of Women for Nikki, said on Feb. 23. “Wake up America! We want to win. The polls are saying ... she can beat Joe Biden.”

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., has also seen the same opportunity, noting that the GOP results from South Carolina show this is a “three-way race,” thanks to those who won’t vote for President Trump or President Biden.

Part of Ms. Haley’s favorable polling against President Biden could be that she draws strong support among moderates, independents, and even some Democrats. In the New Hampshire primary, 70 percent of voters choosing Mrs. Haley were independents.

In South Carolina, 53 percent of Haley voters were independents, and 70 percent described themselves as moderates.

“I’ve already voted for Nikki,” Kurt Kehelbeck, 64, of Charleston, told The Epoch Times, having cast his ballot during the early voting period.

But to win the Republican primary, a candidate must have the support of Republican voters. And most of that support has gone to President Trump.

As for electability in the general election, most Republican voters still believe President Trump would fare better than Ms. Haley.

Of Republican primary voters, 83 percent said President Trump was either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to defeat President Biden in a general election. For Ms. Haley, just 59 percent said the same.


Ms. Haley has positioned her candidacy as a return to “normalcy” after what she described as disorder and unpredictability surrounding President Trump, who pitches his presidency around efforts to “drain the swamp.”

“Chaos follows him,” she told rally goers in Columbia on Feb. 1.

“He’s gotten more unstable and unhinged,” Ms. Haley said of President Trump in a speech at Clemson University on Feb. 20.

After the New Hampshire primary, Ms. Haley added a line to her stump speech about President Trump’s reaction to her 40 percent share of the vote.

“Donald Trump had a temper tantrum on stage. He was completely unhinged. All he did was talk about revenge ... and my dress,” she told supporters in Myrtle Beach on Feb. 22.

But two days earlier, when Laura Ingraham asked what revenge meant to him during a Fox News town hall, President Trump was given a chance to respond to the media coverage about his alleged plans for vengeance.

“I don’t care about the ‘revenge’ thing. I know they use the word ‘revenge,’ ‘Will there be revenge?’” he said. “My revenge will be success.”

Ms. Haley’s supporters are apt to use words like “disrespectful” or “arrogant” to describe President Trump. They appear to see Ms. Haley as calmer and more level-headed.

“The most important thing she can do is bring a divided country together. She can reach across the aisle and begin to heal what’s broken,” Mark Wilson, 65, of Mt. Pleasant told The Epoch Times.

Many of President Trump’s supporters, on the other hand, seem more likely to believe that America is in the midst of an internal conflict that needs to be won rather than healed.

Of those who voted for President Trump in this primary, 90 percent said the most important characteristic they look for in a candidate is someone who “fights for people like me.”

“If we don’t take this country back, we’re going to be like Afghanistan or Iraq or Iran or some third world country,” Douglas Benton of Myrtle Beach told The Epoch Times. If things didn’t change, he said, “It’s going to get ugly.”


As President Trump’s legal problems have mounted over the past year, Ms. Haley has leveraged them as an argument against his presidential candidacy.

“He spent $50 million of his campaign funds to pay for legal fees. Are you kidding me?” she told reporters in Columbia on Feb. 1. “How’s he going to campaign against Joe Biden when he has no money?” she asked, adding that his court cases will continue throughout the year.

To many Trump supporters, the former president’s legal woes have no bearing on his ability to get elected or to govern. Many view the cases against him as abuses of prosecutorial power intended to scare away voters and keep him out of office. As such, his candidacy is cast as a quest for justice.

Michael Large, 62, of Moncks Corner told The Epoch Times he wanted to “show my support for a man that I believe is being politically persecuted and deserves another chance. That’s really why I want him in office.”

Exit polls showed that 67 percent of Trump supporters believed his legal problems don’t matter, and 61 percent said he would be fit to hold office even if convicted of a crime.

Perhaps the most telling finding of the exit pollsters is that Republican voters were largely unpersuadable in the days before this primary.

Most Republican voters had made their choice long before heading to a polling site. More than two-thirds of Trump voters had locked in their choice more than a month before the election.

If the mindset of Republican voters generally mirrors that of South Carolinians, the grail quest for a dozen Republican candidates whose last name is not “Trump” and a significant number of Republican and independent voters in the GOP presidential race appears to be futile.

Voters are saying, there simply is no Republican alternative to Donald Trump.

Read more at: TheEpochTimes.com

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