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Fox News
Fox News
16 Feb 2024


Nikki Haley was the first of more than a dozen White House contenders to challenge former President Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination.

One year after she launched her campaign, the former two-term South Carolina governor who later served as U.N. ambassador in the Trump administration is the last major rival standing against the former president in the race for Republican standard-bearer.

"One year ago, there were 13 fellas in the race, and we were polling at 2%. But we knew what we were fighting for: a strong and proud America. And now, one year later, we’re back in my sweet state of South Carolina and we’re ready to bring it home!," Haley said Thursday on social media.

But with one week to go until the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, Haley faces a steep uphill climb for the nomination against Trump, the frontrunner, as he makes his third straight bid for the White House.

HALEY SPOTLIGHTS TRUMP CHAOS' AS JUDGE SETS FORMER PRESIDENT'S HUSH MONEY TRIAL DATE

Nikki Haley faces a steep uphill climb to knock off Donald Trump in South Carolina

Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at the Orangeburg Mall Feb. 11, 2024, in Orangeburg, S.C. The state's Republicans will participate in their primary Feb. 24. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

Trump grabbed a majority of the votes last month in Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary victories and won by a landslide a week and a half ago in the Nevada and U.S. Virgin Island caucuses. And with the Feb. 24 South Carolina primary fast approaching, the latest public opinion surveys suggest the former president holds a double-digit lead over Haley in her home state.

"She's getting clobbered," Trump emphasized Wednesday night at a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina. "She's finished."

Haley has been campaigning vigorously in her home state and kicked off a bus tour last weekend as early voting in the Republican primary got underway. Haley's campaign and an aligned super PAC have also been spending millions to flood South Carolina's airwaves with ads touting her and targeting Trump.

TRUMP TO JOIN FOX NEWS' LAURA INGRAHAM FOR SOUTH CAROLINA TOWN HALL

Trump, by comparison, didn't set foot in South Carolina for two months, until he held two rallies in the Palmetto State over the past week. The former president will return to South Carolina Tuesday for a Fox News town hall hosted by Laura Ingraham.  

And Trump and an aligned super PAC were dark in the state until the former president's campaign went up this week with a low six-figure ad buy.

trump at podium

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Charleston Area Convention Center in North Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024.  (AP Photo/David Yeazell)

While South Carolina is home for Haley, the former president enjoys the backing of the state's governor, nearly the entire congressional delegation and scores of state lawmakers and local officials.

Veteran South Carolina-based Republican consultant Dave Wilson pointed to Trump's "groundswell" in the state and highlighted the former president's "ground forces."

THE NEXT STOP IN THE HALEY-TRUMP 2024 GOP PRIMARY SHOWDOWN

Wilson also noted that "Nikki Haley is reintroducing herself to South Carolina" because "almost a million people have moved into the statae since she was governor."

But pointing to her undefeated electoral record, Wilson said, "Never underestimate Nikki Haley. Never count Nikki Haley out."

Nikki Haley and Donald Trump

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former President Trump (Getty Images)

Haley has repeatedly said she doesn't need to win her home state. 

FIRST ON FOX: HALEY HAULS IN BIG BUCKS DURING WEST COAST SWING

"Success means being competitive. Closing the gap. Making sure we can continue to go forward as we go into Super Tuesday," Haley stressed in a Fox News Digital interview earlier this month in Columbia, South Carolina.

"It’s just about keeping that momentum going. We got 20% in Iowa. We got 43% in New Hampshire. Let’s bring it a little bit closer so that we can get closer in to him [Trump] and make it more competitive going into Super Tuesday."

Nikki Haley campaigns in the Super Tuesday state of Texas

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks at a rally in Dallas Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Haley took a short break from her South Carolina stumping to raise cash and campaign Thursday and Friday in Texas, one of the 15 states holding Republican nominating contests on Super Tuesday in early March. She hauled in over $1 million during her first day in Texas.

And Haley raked in $1.7 million in fundraising, as Fox News first reported, during a two-day campaign swing a week and a half ago in California, another large Super Tuesday state. The stops in Texas and California appear in part to be a marker for Haley as she pushes back against calls by some Republicans to drop out of the race and allow Trump to focus on facing off with Biden in November.

"I'm in this for the long haul," Haley emphasized at a campaign rally last week in Los Angeles.

And Haley reiterated to Fox News Digital that "our focus is on South Carolina, Michigan, Super Tuesday."

Michigan holds its primary Tuesday, Feb. 27, three days after South Carolina.

Donald Trump at a rally

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump arrives on stage during a Get Out The Vote rally at Coastal Carolina University Feb. 10, 2024, in Conway, S.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Longtime Republican consultant David Carney, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns, noted that "people support Haley. No question about it. And she’ll raise money. No question about it."

But Carney, who remains neutral in the 2024 GOP nomination race, emphasized, "I don’t see any pathway" for Haley.

Pointing to rules in many of the March 5 GOP contests that award the candidate who tops 50% either statewide or in congressional districts the lion's share of delegates, Carney predicted that, for Haley, "Super Tuesday will be really painful."

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.