A voter’s guide to the South Carolina Republican primary: Money, polls and personalities abound

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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — All eyes are on South Carolina on Saturday as Republican voters choose who they want to challenge Joe Biden for the White House: Former President Donald Trump, or native daughter Nikki Haley.

Despite the latest Emerson College Polling/The Hill survey of likely GOP voters suggesting the matchup will be an easy win for Trump, there’s still plenty to unpack.

Where, when and how to vote

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In December, Horry County election officials announced major changes for people voting in person, with 59 precincts being consolidated.

They’re going to return to their normal locations for the June 11 primary to choose candidates in other races.

The affected precincts and their temporary voting locations for the presidential primaries can be found by going to this link on the Horry County government’s website and clicking on “PPP Precincts Combined.”

Saturday’s contest will be the first Republican presidential primary held in the state since a new early voting law was enacted in May 2022. The law allows voters to cast ballots in-person before Election Day without an excuse.

Officials said the changes are based on guidance from the state’s Democrat and Republican parties, along with the South Carolina State Election Commission.

A couple of things to keep in mind: Although Haley and Trump are the only ones left in the GOP race, seven names will appear on the ballot due to filing deadlines. Ryan Binkley, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, David Stuckenberg and Trump will all be on the ballot.

It’s also illegal to take “ballot selfies,” display a completed ballot to another person or use any type of camera inside polling places.

Exit polls are legal but strictly voluntary and not conducted by the state Election Commission or county offices.

When voting in person, you will be asked to show one of the following Photo IDs:

  • SC Driver’s License

  • SC Department of Motor Vehicles ID Card

    • includes SC Concealed Weapons Permit

  • SC Voter Registration Card with Photo

  • US Passport

  • Federal Military ID

    • includes all Department of Defense Photo IDs and the Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits Card

As for the weather, it’ll be sunny all weekend with highs in the 60s.

So far, more than 13,000 people have already voted early in Horry County and as of Feb. 17, 105,000 votes have been cast statewide.

Will Trump pick up momentum in Haley’s home state?

Coming off dominant wins in the early voting states of Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire, Trump is expecting more of the same here. Tuesday’s Emerson College/The Hill poll found the former president with a 23-point lead over Haley, and is most popular with voters who say the economy, immigration and crime are their biggest concerns.

Backed by South Carolina’s popular Gov. Henry McMaster, along with U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott and virtually all of the state’s congressional delegation, Trump understands what a rout here would mean for his campaign.

“We want to send a signal for November,” Trump said Feb. 10 during a 90-minute campaign speech Saturday at Coastal Carolina University’s HTC Center. “Fourteen days from now, each and every one of you is going to get out and vote a deliver a gigantic win in South Carolina and in November we’re going to win the White House and we’re going to take back our country.”

The last time Trump had a competitive GOP primary in South Carolina was 2016. He won that race, pulling in nearly 33% of the vote and prevailing in 44 of 46 counties.

A Haley loss on Saturday, another campaign appearance Sunday

With the math seemingly against her in South Carolina, the state’s one-time governor, in her words, “isn’t going anywhere.”

Haley made it clear during a State of the Race speech in Greenville on Tuesday that no matter how Saturday’s primary goes, she’s not conceding.

“South Carolina will vote on Saturday but on Sunday, I’ll still be running for president. I’m not going anywhere,” Haley said. “I’m campaigning every day until the last person votes.”

With nearly two dozen states and territories set to vote in the 10 days following South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary, Haley said dropping out now deprives them all of a choice.

“I feel no need to kiss the ring. I have no fear of Trump’s retribution. I’m not looking for anything from him,” Haley said. “My own political future is of zero concern. So I hear what the political class says. But I hear from the American people, too.”

While Haley is trailing Trump in South Carolina and nationally, polls show her beating Biden in a head-to-head match-up. The Hill’s Decision Desk HQ polling average shows her leading the president by 0.4 percent.

In the run-up to the primary, her campaign has rolled out mobile billboards in South Carolina hitting Trump over his age and calling out his rhetoric on veterans after he made comments about her husband, who is currently deployed. Trump has also taken continued swipes at Haley.

Spot the candidate (or their surrogates)

Both candidates are ramping up their public appearances across South Carolina as primary day closes in.

Haley’s “Beast of the Southeast Bus Tour” will pull into The George Hotel in Georgetown at 3 p.m. today and then stop by 44 & King in Myrtle Beach at 6 p.m.

Her stops include:

  • Greenville and Clemson on Tuesday

  • North Augusta and Beaufort on Wednesday

  • Georgetown and Myrtle Beach on Thursday

  • Moncks Corner and Mount Pleasant on Friday

Meanwhile, Trump flew into Greenville on Tuesday for a public appearance.

He will have a “Get Out the Vote” rally in Rock Hill Friday afternoon before heading to Columbia, where he will be the keynote speaker at the Black Conservative Federation Annual Honors Gala.

Trump is also planning to attend an election night watch party in Columbia.

His daughter-in-law Lara was in North Charleston on Wednesday night at a “Team Trump South Carolina” hosted event, while Trump’s son Don Jr. headlined a Friday night event in the city.

And former GOP presidential Ramaswamy, rumored to be on Trump’s short list for vice president, stumped for Trump in Aiken on Wednesday.

The money keeps rolling in

Filings with the Federal Election Commission show Haley’s campaign brought in more than $11 million last month, ending with around $13 million cash on hand. Her campaign announced a total January haul of $16.5 million across its committees.

Trump still has more in the bank, according to the latest filings, but his operation is notably paying millions in legal expenses as he faces 91 charges in state and federal criminal indictments, as well as multiple civil cases.

His Save America leadership PAC spent nearly $3 million on legal bills last month, after his fundraising committees spent a staggering $50 million in legal fees last year.

According to campaign finance tracking group OpenSecrets, the pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again has spent $49 million this election cycle — with more than 66% of that, or $32.4 million, used to attack fellow Republicans.

South Carolinians have contributed $6.95 million to 2024 presidential candidates, nearly all of which are now off the ballot

Haley has pulled in the most of any individual with $2.92 million while Trump has gotten $1.04 million. Biden has gotten just $276,172 worth of direct campaign contributions from the Palmetto State.

Individuals can donate up to $3,330 to primary campaigns and another $3,300 for the general election, but it can be done spread out across multiple payments.

Information from The Associated Press and The Hill was used in this story.

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Adam Benson joined the News13 digital team in January 2024. He is a veteran South Carolina reporter with previous stops at the Greenwood Index-Journal, Post & Courier and The Sun News in Myrtle Beach. Adam is a Boston native and University of Utah graduate. Follow Adam on X, formerly Twitter, at @AdamNewshound12. See more of his work here.

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