Not much of a contest after South Carolina.
Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images
There’s still limited public polling available from South Carolina, the state that will vote next in the 2024 Republican presidential nomination contest, meaning that those who want to believe in the pixie-dust possibility of a Nikki Haley upset of Donald Trump in her home state can continue to dream their Never Trump dreams. But the latest data, from a Morning Consult tracking poll, paints a bleak picture for Haley in South Carolina, followed by a vast landscape of disaster in the states voting in March.
In the Palmetto State, Morning Consult shows Trump leading Haley among registered voters (of any or no party self-identification) who say they will vote in the February 24 primary by a 68 percent to 31 percent margin. It’s just one poll, to be sure, but it’s in line with last week’s Washington Post–Monmouth survey giving Trump a smaller but still overwhelming 58 percent to 32 percent lead. That Haley is only pulling a third of potential GOP primary voters (at most; her level of support in the Post-Monmouth poll was the highest of any survey of South Carolina during the entire cycle) in the state she governed for six years has to be dispiriting to her cause. The same goes for her total reliance on crossover Democrat votes to sustain her remote hopes for an upset. The news that Haley was trounced by the “none-of-these-candidates” ballot line in Nevada’s Trump-less “beauty contest” primary this week won’t help her team’s morale, either.
But the really bad news from Morning Consult comes from its tracking polls of the states with primaries after South Carolina’s. It surveyed eight states that vote on Super Tuesday, which is March 5. Trump leads in all of them by huge margins: Alabama 87 percent to 12 percent; California 83 percent to 16 percent; Massachusetts 69 percent to 28 percent; North Carolina 77 percent to 23 percent; Oklahoma 88 percent to 11 percent; Tennessee 81 percent to 18 percent; Texas 84 percent to 15 percent; and Virginia 78 percent to 19 percent. So Haley trails by 41 points in what is by far her best Super Tuesday state, Massachusetts.
It gets even worse after Super Tuesday, according to Morning Consult’s numbers. I won’t go through all of them, but in the bigger states voting in March and April, Trump is riding very high. In Georgia (March 12), the former president’s up 83 percent to 17 percent. In Florida (March 19), where all delegates will be awarded to the statewide winner, Trump’s up 85 percent to 14 percent. In two other March 19 states, he’s up 78 percent to 20 percent in Illinois and 83 percent to 16 percent in Ohio. The landslide continues in New York (April 2), where Trump leads Haley 84 percent to 15 percent.
Trump’s on an all-powerful roll in both closed primary states (like Florida and New York), where only Republicans can vote, and in open primary states (like Georgia, Ohio, and Texas), where Democrats and independents can cross over and vote. Regional differences are relatively minor, though the former president is especially strong in Haley’s native South. There’s just no hope on the horizon for Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations. Sure, things could change somewhat if Haley pulls off a South Carolina shocker, and the next cookie on the plate is in Michigan on February 27 (a date that violates RNC early-state rules, so a majority of GOP delegates will be awarded at congressional district caucuses on March 2). There, however, the latest poll (another survey from Washington Post–Monmouth), in December, gave Trump a 50-point lead.
Sure, Haley can hang around through drubbing after drubbing and hope lightning — or a criminal conviction — strikes the Trump candidacy. But in every contest in the very near future, delegates will be elected who are loyal to Trump and will almost certainly never elevate the politician Trump calls “birdbrain” to the presidential nomination. She really needs to figure out her next career step.