Nikki Haley likely headed toward decisive home turf defeat

Two new polls in South Carolina show the state’s former Governor trailing former President Donald Trump ahead of the South Carolina GOP Primary Saturday.

A Suffolk University/USA Today poll shows Trump leading Nikki Haley by 28 percentage points, at 63% to 35% among likely Republican Primary voters. An Emerson College Polling survey puts Trump up 23 points over Haley, at 58% to 35%.

Trump’s many legal woes have not reduced his edge in the Palmetto State.

The USA Today poll shows Trump with double-digit advantages among men and women, all age demographics, and both high school and college grads.

It’s not that Haley isn’t doing well in her state — the USA Today poll showed her enjoying net favorability ratings at 47% favorable and 36% unfavorable — it’s just that Trump is doing better. He has a 64% favorability rating among South Carolina voters, compared to a 25% unfavorable rating.

And Haley is also taking a hit when it comes to translating likes into votes. There, about 90% of those who view Trump favorably plan to vote for him, while only 65% of those who view Haley favorably plan to vote for her.

But she has one glimmer of hope in the USA Today poll — she leads among those who identify as liberal or moderate, 59% to 38%.

That’s an important metric because South Carolina’s Primary system allows people to choose which Primary in which to participate. Turnout in the Democratic Primary was less than 5%, leaving plenty of moderate and liberal voters left to court.

In recent days, Haley has been reminding voters who didn’t cast a ballot in the Feb. 3 Democratic Primary that they can still do so in the GOP Primary on Saturday. She’s playing on crossover support from those who wish to cast a ballot against the former President.

“South Carolina holds an open Primary; there is a divide among Republican and independent affiliated voters,” said Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling. “Voters who affiliate as Republicans break for Trump over Haley, 71%-29%, while voters who affiliate as independent break for Nikki Haley 54% to 46%.”

The USA Today poll was taken among 500 likely South Carolina voters on both cellphones and landlines. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.

The Emerson poll was taken Feb. 14-16 among 1,000 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

Both polls show Haley leading among voters who are worried about threats to democracy — though both polls show that is of minimal concern to South Carolina Primary voters. The Emerson survey showed 63% of those voters support the former South Carolina Governor, though poll authors note the number of voters who expressed concerns about democracy was “relatively few.”

Likewise in the USA Today poll, 63% of voters concerned about the future of democracy back Haley, compared to just 37% for Trump. However, that poll showed just 13% of those surveyed said democracy was their biggest concern, meaning both polls indicate she doesn’t have much room to grow among that cohort.

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