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Trump notches easy win over Haley in march to Republican nomination

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AFP – Donald Trump cruised to a decisive victory Saturday in the South Carolina Republican primary, blitzing rival Nikki Haley in her home state and continuing his march to the nomination and a White House rematch with Joe Biden.

Trump completed a sweep of the first four major nominating contests, converting a year of blockbuster polls into a likely insurmountable lead going into the “Super Tuesday” 15-state voting bonanza in 10 days.

While Haley repeatedly questioned the 77-year-old former president’s mental fitness and warned another Trump presidency would bring “chaos,” her efforts appeared to do little to damage his standing among Republicans.

The margin of victory was not immediately clear but it was expected to be significant, with major US networks calling the race within seconds of the polls closing.

Haley, a popular governor of South Carolina in the 2010s and the only woman to have entered the Republican contest, was looking to outperform expectations in her own backyard and ride into Super Tuesday with wind her sails.

But she was never able to compete in a battleground that preferred Trump’s brand of right-wing “America first” populism and personal grievance over the four indictments and multiple civil lawsuits he faces.

Trump had already won Iowa by 30 points and New Hampshire by 10, while a dispute in Nevada led to the real estate tycoon running unopposed in the official contest.

The margin of Trump’s victory was always the main question in South Carolina, with analysts arguing that Haley managing to whittle the gap to 15 points or less would have counted as a good night.

Trump aides have been clear however that they want to see off Haley long before the Republican National Convention in July — and are expecting the party to coalesce around the front-runner ahead of the first of his criminal trials on March 25.

– ‘Chaos’ –

Trump made clear Saturday that he is looking beyond Haley to a likely November contest against Biden.

Speaking ahead of voting booths closing to the Conservative Political Action Committee conference — a must-stop for Republican politicians — Trump spent much of his time bashing Biden, not Haley.

Haley — a traditional conservative who espouses limited government and a muscular foreign policy — has argued that a Trump presidency would be mired in scandal from day one.

The 52-year-old former UN ambassador underscored the point Saturday by describing as “disgusting” comments Trump had made to Black conservatives on the campaign trail.

Nodding to his multiple indictments, Trump said that “Black people like me because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against, and they actually viewed me as I’m being discriminated against.”

Haley has also blasted Trump’s reaction to the death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny — he avoided criticizing President Vladimir Putin — and his threat to encourage Moscow to attack NATO nations not meeting their financial obligations.

Her central argument — that polling shows her performing better than Trump in hypothetical matchups with Biden — may have fallen on deaf ears but she has vowed to stay in the race through Super Tuesday.

Analysts say she is building her profile for a potential 2028 run — and is poised to step in should legal or health problems knock Trump out of the race.

“Nikki Haley’s an incredible role model,” said one Republican voter, Julie Taylor. “She’s not giving up, she’s showing strength and grace and courage.”

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