Earlier this week, our political columnist Mark Powell lamented the dearth of polling ahead of the February 24, 2024 “First in the South” presidential primary election in South Carolina.
Why are media outlets not polling this race? Because it’s over, that’s why.
Former S.C. governor Nikki Haley‘s erstwhile early state momentum collapsed last month – turning what could have been a potentially competitive primary into a rout for former U.S. president Donald Trump. After decisive, double digit wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, Trump is now searching for a knockout punch in Haley’s own back yard.
The numbers suggest he’s going to get it, too.
A new Monmouth University poll – conducted in conjunction with The Washington Post – showed Trump thrashing Haley by a whopping 26 percentage points. All told, 58 percent of “potential” GOP primary voters in the Palmetto State support the former president compared to just 32 percent who back their ex-governor – who spent six years in that office after spending another six years as a member of the S.C. General Assembly.
Only two percent backed other candidates, leaving approximately eight percent undecided.
Monmouth and the Post‘s pollsters conducted their survey between January 26-30, 2024. A total of 815 “potential” primary voters were surveyed, giving the poll a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
Those numbers have evolved significantly since last September, when the same surveyors found 46 percent support for Trump and 18 percent support for Haley.
Even more troublesome for the former Palmetto State chief executive? The intensity factor is not working in her favor. Far more Trump voters (73 percent) say they are “extremely motivated” to turn out on February 24 – whereas only 45 percent of Haley backers are “extremely motivated” to support her.
That could lead to an even bigger victory margin for Trump …
More bad news for Haley? When Monmouth and the Post polled in September, 59 percent of potential GOP primary voters had a favorable view of her. Today that number has dipped to 45 percent – with 41 percent holding an unfavorable view of her.
Familiarity breeds contempt, huh?
Haley’s only hope in South Carolina? Non-Republican voters. The Palmetto State has an open primary, meaning anyone who doesn’t cast a ballot in this Saturday’s Democratic presidential election is free to vote in the GOP election.
With U.S. president Joe Biden assured of another landslide ‘First in the South’ win, is it possible droves of Democrats could cross over to the GOP primary in an attempt to hurt Trump?
“Haley’s hopes appear to hang on pulling in Democratic-leaning voters who would never support her in a general election but simply want to stop Trump,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Our sampling frame for this poll did not include voters who have participated only in Democratic primaries. If a sizable number of those voters decide to skip this week’s (Democratic) primary and show up for the Republican contest instead, she could narrow the gap. It would remain a tough challenge, though, for her to actually close it.”
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Murray added that “Trump’s electability is a concern for some primary voters,” but that this segment of the GOP electorate in the Palmetto State is “nowhere near large enough to put Haley in striking distance of the front-runner.”
Which is why she is nowhere within striking distance of the frontrunner … again, in her own backyard.
Contrary to certain media reports, South Carolina’s GOP primary is not “winner take all” – not technically, anyway. As currently configured, 29 of the state’s fifty (50) delegates go to the winner of the statewide popular vote. The other 21 delegates are apportioned according to the winner of the state’s seven congressional districts.
“Our poll currently shows Trump statistically ahead in five congressional districts and holding nominal leads in the other two. A Trump sweep of all 50 delegates is possible even if Haley can make it a tighter race.”
Through the first two states, Trump has 33 delegates compared to 17 for Haley.
While Trump is trouncing his rival, he’s not letting his foot off the gas – sending out a release bashing her for supporting former U.S. president Barack Obama‘s controversial refugee resettlement programs.
Is that criticism accurate?
To read our coverage of Haley’s refugee record as governor, click here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
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