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Trump seeks landslide victory in S.Carolina to crush Haley

By AFP - Feb 24,2024 - Last updated at Feb 24,2024

Former US president and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference meeting on Saturday (AFP photo)

CHARLESTON, United States — Donald Trump and Nikki Haley go head-to-head on Saturday evening in South Carolina’s Republican primary, with the ex-president set to trounce his former charge in her home state as he closes in on the nomination.

Haley was a popular governor of the state before becoming Trump’s UN ambassador in 2017, but her old boss is backed by the local party establishment and nearly two-thirds of voters in opinion polling.

Since the early nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire in January, the rhetorical fire has intensified between the two as the primary narrowed into a two-horse race.

But seeking to demonstrate that he is looking beyond Haley, Trump has vowed to show President Joe Biden and the Democrats “that we are coming like a freight train in November”, when the general election will be held.

In remarks released early to the US media, Trump will say in a speech later Saturday that “if we can break out of this Biden nightmare, we have it in our grasp to make America richer, safer, stronger, prouder and more beautiful than ever before”.

Polls in the southern US state opened at 7:00am local time (12:00 GMT).

South Carolinians do not have to indicate party allegiance when they register to vote, and are allowed to have their say in either the Democratic or the Republican primary.

Haley — a more traditional conservative who espouses limited government and a muscular foreign policy — will hope for votes from moderates, but the tactic did little for her as she lost to Trump in each of the first four nominating contests.


Economy, migration 


Voters interviewed by AFP in South Carolina capital Columbia were complimentary about both candidates, although one voter felt Haley wasn’t ready for the highest office and another criticised Trump for being divisive.

“He’ll go after people that don’t agree with him. Being a Christian, I don’t feel good about that,” said financial advisor and Haley voter David Gilliam, 55.

Meantime, husband and wife Jeff and Susan Stottler laughingly explained why they were not voting for the same candidate.

Jeff, a 61-year-old banker, said Trump will “override everything that Joe Biden has done to put us in the economic and immigrant mess we’re in”, while Susan, who is 60, said her vote for Haley was really meant to encourage Trump to pick her as his vice president.

Trump — who faces four criminal indictments — is tightening his hold over the party as he pushes toward a second term in the White House.

Haley has sought to focus on the “chaos” that she says follows Trump, predicting that his total outlay on court cases this year could top $100 million.

“Everything he touches is chaos that leads to a loss,” she said on Saturday. “How many more times do Republicans have to lose before they realise that maybe he’s the one that’s the problem?”


Haley refuses to quit 


In common with Democrats, Haley has also been hitting Trump over his outlook on the international stage and oft-voiced admiration for the leaders of the world’s most authoritarian regimes.

She has blasted Trump’s reaction to the death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny — in which he avoided criticism of President Vladimir Putin — and his threat to encourage Moscow to attack NATO nations that had not met their financial obligations.

But Haley’s central argument for months has been that polling shows her performing better than Trump in hypothetical matchups with Biden.

She has vowed to compete in the Republican primary through “Super Tuesday” — when multiple states vote on March 5 — regardless of what happens in South Carolina.

Reproductive rights are likely to figure prominently in the election, with Trump avoiding taking a clear position on proposals for a nationwide abortion ban after appointing three Supreme Court justices who helped gut federal protections.

A wrinkle was added when Alabama’s supreme court ruled last week that frozen embryos can be considered children, signaling a new front in the debate and posing questions for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinics.

Trump — keenly aware the Alabama decision risks alienating moderate and women voters — voiced support on Friday for preserving access to IVF programmes, calling on the state’s legislature to “act quickly to find an immediate solution” to ensure it remained available.


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