Haley makes final push in South Carolina as supporters vow to stick with her

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCBD)- “What do you want to see in a President,” Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley asked the crowd Friday afternoon in Moncks Corner.

“You!” someone shouted back as the crowd erupted into cheers.

The former South Carolina governor spent the day before the first-in-the-South primary in the Lowcountry, making a final pitch to voters on why they should back her.

“And all that we accomplished, if you think back to when I first became governor, times were tough… and now I’m running for president and times are tough,” Haley said Friday evening in Mount Pleasant while reflecting on her record as governor.

Haley circled Feb. 24 on her calendar months ago. Her bid always hinged on building support through the first three contests and then, as she told voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, winning “my sweet state of South Carolina.”

Pulling off an upset in her home state won’t be easy though as current GOP primary polling averages show her trailing former President Donald Trump by nearly 31 percentage points.

Haley has adjusted her message accordingly. Rather than predict victory, she spent the last several weeks talking about how far she’s come and promising to stay in the race until at least after Super Tuesday.

“We had 14 people in this race,” she said later in Mount Pleasant. “I’ve defeated a dozen. of the fellas. I just have one more fella I’ve got to catch up to.”

Her supporters recognize it will be challenging for her in South Carolina, but they want her campaign to continue regardless of Saturday’s outcome.

“She’s not going to win,” Irene Sulaowski, who lives on Daniel Island, said. “Her point is it’s not over yet. People still need to have discussions. People still need to move forward.”

Sulaowski said Haley is what is best for the Republican party right now.

“Donald Trump has a great personal magnetism and charisma and a lot of people really just have deep emotional attachment to him, but that’s not what’s best for the party right now.”

And she’s not alone.

Pam Hemphill, a South Carolina resident who served time in federal prison for her role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, said Haley is the “only choice.”

“We can’t have Trump in office. There’s no way. He’s a narcissistic, dangerous person that really wants to destroy the country where at least Nikki is looking at all the people and trying to do what’s right for everybody.”

“I don’t want to invest in a feud and that’s what’s going on with the other groups so with her it’s more of a fresh start,” Summerville resident Mark Crebb said.

Haley has sharpened her attacks on the former president in recent weeks, painting him as an “unhinged” figure who is followed by “chaos.” She also claims both he and President Biden are too old, too divisive, and too unpopular to be the only options for voters this fall.

“Are we really gonna say that we’re in a point in time where the best we can do are two candidates in their 80s when you need someone that can put in eight years of hard work, day and night, getting the job done for the American people,” Haley said. “No drama. No vendettas. Just results. That’s what we need in America.”

While it’s yet to be determined if Haley’s calls for a “new generational leader” are heard in South Carolina, her supporters certainly believe she offers a fresh start.

“I don’t want to invest in a feud and that’s what’s going on with the other groups so with her it’s more of a fresh start,” Summerville resident Mark Crebb said.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Feb. 24 for the South Carolina Republican presidential primary.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.