Takeaways from the Republican South Carolina primary

By Thomson Reuters Feb 24, 2024 | 5:52 PM

By James Oliphant

(Reuters) – Frontrunner Donald Trump is hoping to use a sizeable victory in South Carolina’s Republican primary on Saturday to convince rival Nikki Haley to drop out of the presidential race. While the outcome is expected to put Trump even closer to clinching the party’s nomination, Haley has vowed to press on.

Here are some takeaways from the South Carolina primary:


Exit polls conducted by Edison Research on Saturday made one thing clear: Trump has boxed out Haley on the issue of immigration and border security.

That mattered in South Carolina, where 41% of voters listed immigration as their top priority. Of those voters, 83% backed Trump and just 16% supported Haley. And of the 70% of voters who believe undocumented immigrants should be deported to their countries of origin, 77% voted for Trump.

At campaign events, Haley has argued that she, too, takes a hard line on immigration, but Republicans don’t seem to be buying it. Trump’s campaign this week released a TV ad titled “Weakness” that claimed Haley opposed Trump’s so-called Muslim “travel ban” during his administration and questioned the need for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

The site FactCheck.org called the Trump ad misleading, noting that Haley has been supportive of a wall, but she would have favored a more narrowly tailored ban than the one Trump instituted.

Regardless, Trump’s attacks seem to have stuck, which does not auger well for Haley’s prospects in a party increasingly consumed by the issue of migrants coming across the border.


Trump also continues to hold a strong advantage when it comes to voters who are unhappy with the state of the economy, which, unfortunately for Haley, comprises a large share of the Republican electorate.

A whopping 84% of voters surveyed by Edison said the condition of economy was “not so good or poor” despite low unemployment and a booming stock market. Two-thirds of those voters backed Trump.

Even voters who said their personal financial situation was stable went for Trump in large numbers. Only the small fraction of voters who said the economy was in good shape preferred Haley.

Trump won the majority of voters in all income brackets surveyed by Edison. In what has been his historical pattern, he did best with those who lack a college degree and those who earn less than $50,000 a year.

Overall, if you were a voter upset with the status quo in America, you went for Trump: 46% of respondents to the exit poll said they were “angry” about the state of the country, with Trump grabbing 85% of that vote.

(Reporting by James Oliphant; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Ross Colvin)