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Trump defeats Haley in South Carolina republican primary

Former US president Donald Trump cruised to a decisive victory in the South Carolina republican primary, blitzing rival Nikki Haley in her home state and continuing his march to the nomination and a White House rematch with Joe Biden.

Mr Trump completed a sweep of the first four major nominating contests, converting a year of blockbuster polls into a likely insurmountable lead going into the “Super Tuesday” 15-state voting bonanza in 10 days.

“I have never seen the Republican party so unified as it is right now,” Mr Trump told supporters in Columbia, the state capital, just minutes after the polls closed.

He did not mention Haley once in about 30 minutes of remarks.

The lopsided outcome will bolster calls from Trump’s allies that Haley, Trump’s last remaining challenger, should drop out of the race.

While Ms Haley repeatedly questioned the 77-year-old former president’s mental fitness and warned another presidency under Mr Trump would bring “chaos,” her efforts appeared to do little to damage his standing among republican voters.

The margin of victory was not immediately clear but it was expected to be significant, with major US networks calling the race within seconds of the polls closing.

Ms Haley, a popular governor of South Carolina in the 2010s and the only woman to have entered the republican contest, was looking to outperform expectations in her own backyard and ride into Super Tuesday with some momentum.

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley casts her vote in South Carolina

However she was never able to compete in a battleground that preferred Mr Trump’s brand of right-wing “America first” populism.

Mr Trump had already won Iowa by 30 points and New Hampshire by 10, while a dispute in Nevada led to the real estate tycoon running unopposed in the official contest.

The margin of Mr Trump’s victory was always the main question in South Carolina, with analysts arguing that Ms Haley managing to whittle the gap to 15 points or less would have counted as a good night.

Mr Trump’s aides have been clear however that they want to see off Haley long before the Republican National Convention in July, and are expecting the party to have clarity around the front-runner ahead of the first of his criminal trials on 25 March.

‘Chaos’

Mr Trump made it clear that he is looking beyond Ms Haley to a likely November contest against democrat Joe Biden.

Speaking ahead of voting booths closing to the Conservative Political Action Committee conference, a must-stop for republican politicians, Mr Trump spent much of his time bashing Mr Biden, not Ms Haley.

Ms Haley, a traditional conservative who espouses limited government and a muscular foreign policy, has argued that a Trump presidency would be mired in scandal from day one.

The 52-year-old former UN ambassador underscored the point by describing as “disgusting” comments Mr Trump had made to Black conservatives on the campaign trail.

Nikki Haley has vowed to stay in the race despite losing in her home state

Nodding to his multiple indictments, Mr Trump said that “Black people like me because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against, and they actually viewed me as I’m being discriminated against.”

Ms Haley has also blasted Mr Trump’s reaction to the death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny after he avoided criticising President Vladimir Putin as well as his threat to encourage Russia to attack NATO nations not meeting their financial obligations.

Her central argument, that polling shows her performing better than Mr Trump in hypothetical matchups with Biden, may have fallen on deaf ears but she has vowed to stay in the race through Super Tuesday.

Analysts say she is building her profile for a potential 2028 run, and is poised to step in should legal or health problems knock Mr Trump out of the race.

“Nikki Haley’s an incredible role model,” said one Republican voter, Julie Taylor. “She’s not giving up, she’s showing strength and grace and courage.”


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