Trump, Haley go head-to-head in South Carolina primary

Mike Schmidt votes on the morning of the South Carolina Republican primary at Cayce United Methodist Church in Cayce, South Carolina, on Saturday.
Mike Schmidt votes on the morning of the South Carolina Republican primary at Cayce United Methodist Church in Cayce, South Carolina, on Saturday. Andrew Harnik/AP

Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign has for weeks been looking ahead to the Republican primary in South Carolina, while Trump has led in every poll of the state.

Here are four things to watch for tonight as the Palmetto State votes:

Can Trump deliver the KO?: Barring a major upset, most discussions about the primary will, by late Saturday, turn to Trump’s margin of victory. The question: Is there a deficit that could make Haley rethink her plan to stay in the race regardless of the result?

Haley and her campaign have repeatedly brushed off any suggestion of ending her bid before next month, but she wouldn’t be the first candidate to change her tune when confronted with ugly numbers.

Haley’s path to victory?: Much of what made Haley a national political figure – like her call as governor for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds – is anathema to the state’s conservative GOP base. She is on the outs with nearly all state party leaders. Trump, meanwhile, has dominated there.

The primary in South Carolina is open, meaning Democrats and independents can cast ballots in the GOP race. Haley is hoping the do-or-die nature of the moment will inspire a late, anti-Trump outburst. One that might carry into other states with open primaries, such as Michigan next week and Texas and Virginia on Super Tuesday.

Can Trump expand his base?: One of the main concerns facing Trump’s campaign – one highlighted by Haley in the run-up to South Carolina – is his weak showing among independents, which was evident in New Hampshire.

With independents allowed to vote in the South Carolina contest as well, we might get some insight into whether Trump has done anything to help his cause with these potential general election swing voters.

The delegate math: For all the expectation-setting and speculative arguments, there is still only one concrete measure of success: delegates. The eventual nominee will need 1,215 of them.

Trump currently leads Haley, 63 to 17. It’s obviously not insurmountable, and with 50 at stake in South Carolina, Haley could theoretically jump into the lead. Much more likely, though, is that she will be shut out entirely. South Carolina awards 29 of its delegates to the statewide winner and three apiece to the leader in each of its seven congressional districts.

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First appeared on www.cnn.com

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