South Carolina Primary Could Pit Biden Against Haley

With former President Donald Trump establishing a seemingly insurmountable lead early on in the 2024 GOP presidential primary race, it appears increasingly unlikely that challenger Nikki Haley will have an opportunity to square off against President Joe Biden in November’s general election.

Nevertheless, the rules in place for the upcoming primary in South Carolina, where Haley previously served as governor, are likely to result in a scenario that makes her the biggest threat to a dominating victory by the incumbent.

Since voters in the Palmetto State are not required to register as members of a party, a number of anti-Trump independents and Democrats are expected to vote for Haley in the Republican primary instead of casting a Democratic ballot for Biden. Considering the outsized role that South Carolina played in securing Biden’s 2020 nomination, a lackluster performance this year could further illustrate his widespread unpopularity.

Of course, he is still expected to register a commanding lead over his two long-shot primary rivals, Marianne Williamson and U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN). Nevertheless, party leaders in the state are clearly trying to convince voters to show up to the polls for the Democratic primary.

“I don’t think you can set expectations for what most view as a not-so-competitive primary,” asserted Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright. “We should be paying attention to whether people are voting in the Republican Party to stop Trump or whether they are doing what they should be doing, which is voting in the Democratic primary. That will also have a big impact on turnout.”

For his part, Biden is campaigning in the state largely on the role that its voters played four years ago in hopes of rekindling that turnout later this month.

“The truth is, I wouldn’t be here without the Democratic voters of South Carolina, and that’s a fact,” he said. “You are the reason I’m president. You’re the reason Kamala Harris is a historic vice president. You’re the reason Donald Trump is a defeated former president. You’re the reason Donald Trump is a loser and you’re the reason we’re going to win and beat him again.”

Despite Haley’s deep ties to the state, recent polling results show Trump with a lead of as much as 40 points ahead of the primary.