CBS: South Carolina Republicans Give Trump Large Lead Over Haley Ahead Of 2024 Primary

Republicans go to the polls in South Carolina on Saturday --- it's the next state in the race to lock up the GOP nomination. Nikki Haley is South Carolina's former Governor, but she's still trailing former President Donald Trump, who remains popular despite legal issues.

Monday, February 19th 2024, 4:20 pm

By: CBS News


In South Carolina's 2024 Republican primary election, most voters look back approvingly on Nikki Haley's time as the state's governor, but also say it doesn't matter to them that she's from the state — and instead say that they're thinking nationally about the party's nomination.

So, for that and many other reasons, Donald Trump has a very big advantage here, just as he does with Republicans nationally. 

Plus, nearly half the party's voters here identify as "MAGA" — in similar numbers to Republicans nationwide — and they don't think Haley is part of that movement. 

Going forward, Trump's voters don't seem open to change in the coming weeks — almost nine in 10 are "firmly decided" — leaving Haley's arguments about things like electability or chaos struggling to find resonance.

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Further negating any home-state edge, Trump gets better marks retrospectively: his approval rating for his time as president is more than 20 points higher than Haley's is as governor.

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Trump's array of advantages includes easily besting Haley on being seen as "fights for people like you" — a measure that has been a marker of his support in polls and early primaries.

Echoing primary voters in other states, most also describe Trump as "prepared," and a "strong leader" and in addition to that, "tough." That's comparably less the case for Haley, though she has an edge on being seen as "likable."

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But many of Haley's campaign arguments aren't resonating. Most Trump voters don't see his legal fights as a reason they might consider Haley instead.

As CBS News polling has found in Iowa and New Hampshire, more voters here say Trump is fit to serve as president if convicted of a charge than say he isn't.

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Most don't see critiques of Trump's mental fitness as fair.

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And voters tend to think it's Trump who has the better chance of beating Joe Biden. (This also looks similar to voters nationally.)

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Then, looking forward, voters see Trump's policy approaches more likely to deliver. Most think they'd be better off financially with him, as opposed to Haley. Though most think both would make the U.S.-Mexico border more secure, an overwhelming number feel Trump would do so. And more think Trump would limit U.S. overseas military involvement. (When they do, they're voting for him.)

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The evangelical composition of the South Carolina electorate also helps Trump. These voters have always been a strong part of his base, and he wins their backing easily. That shows up on the abortion issue, among others. More think Trump than Haley would back a national abortion ban.

Finally, this doesn't look like a vote choice driven by views of who is closer to the party "establishment" and who is taking it on, even as there's been some campaign rhetoric about those themes. Both Haley and Trump are seen as "part of the Republican establishment." That's especially true for Haley, but about six in 10 also describe Trump this way. And those saying so of Trump by and large think of it as positive.

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