South Carolina primary 2024: Trump projected to win, Haley vows to stay in the race

What can we take away from Trump's big Palmetto State victory?

Former President Donald Trump has won the South Carolina Republican primary, ABC News projects. It was a swift and embarrassing defeat for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who rose to political prominence as South Carolina’s governor. Nevertheless, in her concession speech, Haley vowed to continue her campaign into Super Tuesday on March 5.

Throughout the evening, 538 reporters, analysts and contributors broke down the results as they came in with live updates, analysis and commentary. Read our full live blog below.


That's a wrap!

As of 9:20 p.m., 70 percent of the expected vote is reporting in South Carolina, and Trump is leading Haley by 20 points. It’s a decisive victory for the former president, as expected, though a somewhat smaller margin than his average lead in the polls heading into today (around 28 points).

Haley’s margin of defeat, though, looks even larger when it comes to delegates: Under South Carolina’s delegate allocation system, over half the state’s 50 delegates are awarded to the statewide winner, while the rest are awarded by congressional district. It looks like the maximum delegates Haley could walk away with in her home state tonight is three, if she holds onto her lead in the 1st District.

Despite this, Haley proclaimed in her speech that tonight’s result demonstrated her home state’s frustration with the country’s direction and reiterated her promise to stay in the race.

And on that note ... We hope to see you back here for our Super Tuesday live blog on March 5! We're gearing up for an eventful night tracking not only the presidential race in 15 states (and one territory) but a slew of down-ballot primaries in Senate, House and gubernatorial races as well.

—Tia Yang, 538


Final thought: If Biden was winning only 60 percent, people would be freaking out

I have become a little obsessed tonight about what we should be expecting Trump to hit in this primary a priori. That is, given Trump is assumed to be the eventual party nominee and almost universally liked in the GOP, should he be winning more than 60 percent in South Carolina?

I already gave my case for answering "no" to that question: Strictly speaking Trump is dominating the delegate count and running ahead of his 2016 vote share in most counties with complete counts this primary cycle. And if you consider that Haley gets a home-state advantage in South Carolina tonight, Trump's adjusted vote share is close to 65 or 70 percent; our delegate benchmarks think Trump should have won 68 percent of the vote based on the demographics of the state alone. That's not the highest number, but it's not the lowest right? Would 65 percent be "good" for Trump? 75 percent? 80?

One counterargument to this centers around how the media has covered historical performances by incumbent presidential candidates. Journalist Jill Lawrence points out that in 1992, Patrick Buchanan challenged incumbent President George H.W. Bush for the GOP nomination and won 40 percent in the New Hampshire primary, holding Bush to 58 percent of the vote. That's an almost identical split to the results from tonight. The New York Times journalist Robin Toner wrote up the results with the headline "BUSH JARRED IN FIRST PRIMARY" and said the result "amounted to a roar of anger" from Republican primary voters.

If Trump was a true incumbent, I imagine the news media would use a similar headline to describe tonight's results in South Carolina. Perhaps our expectations for him are too low, or we're too focused on the broader state of play? Haley said in her concession speech tonight that she will stay in the race indefinitely, so I guess we'll get more data on Super Tuesday — only 10 days from now. The primary lives on!

—G. Elliott Morris, 538


Final thought: Looking to the suburbs

There are significant differences between primaries and general elections. (If you’re reading this live blog, I’d bet Nathaniel’s next paycheck you already know that.) But I don’t think we should lose sight of where specifically Trump is struggling in South Carolina and in the other early states: metro areas and the suburbs. Tonight, the three counties Haley won happen to be the three counties with the highest educational attainment in the state. We know that one of the primary engines of Democratic success in every cycle since 2016, really, has been improved fortunes among suburban and educated voters. Most Haley voters will end up voting for Trump, yes, but I don’t think it’s insignificant that even as he flexes control over the GOP for eight years running, his problems in the suburbs are still as evident as ever.

—Jacob Rubashkin, Inside Elections



Final thought: Haley could actually win delegates tonight

We don't have final results by congressional district (much less overall), but as we can see from a map of the results, Haley is doing better along the coast near Charleston than in much of the rest of South Carolina. That may signal that Haley could carry the 1st Congressional District once all is said and done to win three delegates. That may not seem like much, but Trump swept South Carolina's delegates in 2016, and if Haley is sticking around, winning any delegates has to be part of her strategy to carry on.

Half of the 1st District's population is in Charleston and Beaufort counties, according to Daily Kos Elections — both of which Haley currently lead in. Another 49 percent of the district lies in Berkeley and Dorchester counties, both of which Trump holds an edge in (the remaining 1 percent is in Colleton and Jasper counties). Charleston and Dorchester are both split between the 1st and 6th, so we can't figure out the district-level result based purely on the county-level numbers. So we'll have to see. But Haley's showing in the 1st might be her one bright spot tonight.

—Geoffrey Skelley, 538


What Trump’s South Carolina win in 2016 can tell us about 2024

Back in 2016, won the South Carolina primary by 10 points, garnering 32 percent of the vote. His two main rivals, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, each received about 22 percent, with Rubio finishing second. Yet with a crowded field — three other candidates won between 7 and 8 percent — Trump's showing was good enough to carry all but two counties in the state. He also won every congressional district, allowing him to sweep the state's 50 national convention delegates.

Trump's strongest-performing area was in the state's northeast, where he won about 44 percent of the vote in the Myrtle Beach-Florence media market, which made up close to one-eighth of the state's vote. That region should once again be one of Trump's strongest today: A mid-February poll from The Citadel found him winning around two-thirds of the vote in that media market, and a similarly-timed Suffolk University/USA Today survey found him garnering about 7 in 10 voters in the Pee Dee region, which overlaps much of the same turf. He's also poised to improve in a critical area of (relative) weakness in 2016: the vote-rich Upstate area around Greenville in the state's northwest, which contributed about one-third of the 2016 primary vote and was Cruz's strongest region. Both The Citadel and Suffolk polls found Trump at around 70 percent support there. His strength in the Upstate region — the most evangelical-rich part of the state — will come in part from having won over very conservative and white evangelical voters more likely to have backed Cruz in 2016.

For her part, Haley will likely do best in Rubio's strongest places, like the more affluent and well-educated Charleston area, where Haley pulled in between 40 and 50 percent of respondents in surveys from The Citadel and Suffolk. Charleston County proper was one of just two counties that Rubio carried in 2016, the other being Richland County (home to Columbia, the state capital) in the center of the state. Haley could be competitive there, too, as the Suffolk poll found her running within a dozen points of Trump in central South Carolina. Overall, the Charleston and Columbia media markets made up about one-sixth and one-fifth of the state's 2016 GOP primary vote, respectively.

—Geoffrey Skelley, 538