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    Trump soundly defeats Nikki Haley in South Carolina Republican primary

    Donald Trump defeated Nikki Haley in her home state of South Carolina, a stinging setback that narrows her vanishingly thin path to the nomination.The Associated Press called the South Carolina primary for Trump right when polls closed at 7pm ET, in a clear indication of his large victory in Haley’s home state. Trump locked in approximately 60% of the vote, with Haley hovering at about 40%.Palmetto State voters have a long history of choosing the party’s eventual nominee, and Trump is on track to clinch the Republican nomination months before the party’s summer convention in Milwaukee.“I just want to say that I have never seen the Republican party so unified as it is right now,” Trump told supporters at his victory party in Columbia. “This is a fantastic evening. It’s an early evening, and fantastic.”Trump had stormed through the early voting states, racking up wins – and delegates – in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Beating Haley, who served as his ambassador to the United Nations, in her home state delivers another stinging blow to her candidacy, moving the nomination even further out of her reach.Addressing supporters in Charleston, Haley insisted she would not drop out of the race despite her four straight losses, arguing that Trump is unable to defeat Joe Biden in the general election.“What I saw today was South Carolina’s frustration with our country’s direction. I’ve seen that same frustration nationwide. I share it. I feel it to my core,” Haley said. “I said earlier this week that no matter what happens in South Carolina, I will continue to run for president. I’m a woman of my word.”Haley’s campaign announced on Friday it was launching a “seven-figure” national cable and digital buy ahead of Super Tuesday on 5 March. On Sunday she will host a rally in Michigan, which holds its primary on 27 February, before embarking on a cross-country swing through several Super Tuesday states.View image in fullscreenHer refusal to be driven from the race has frustrated Trump and his allies. They say Haley, who has compared herself to David taking on Goliath, has no path to victory, and accuse her of relying on wealthy donors to keep her long-shot bid alive and merely prolong the inevitable.Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesperson, said on Saturday before polls closed: “The fact is that Haley’s campaign has now turned into a full-fledged Never Trump operation with her as Crooked Joe Biden’s biggest surrogate. The primary ends tonight, and it is time to turn to the general election.”But Haley’s supporters say they are grateful for her presence in the race as a reminder of what a future Republican party might look like. Some believe the 52-year-old Haley is laying the groundwork for a future presidential run, or positioning herself to be the obvious second choice in the extraordinary event Trump can no longer serve as the party’s nominee.Trump faces 91 felony charges as well as mounting legal fees and vast financial penalties that he has tapped his campaign fund to help pay. At her events, Haley tells voters that it is “not normal” for a candidate to spend more time in the courtroom than on the campaign trail, or to ask donors to foot his legal bills.But Trump’s legal travails, which stem in part from his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and his role in the 6 January assault on the US Capitol, have only strengthened his support.In recent days, Trump’s campaign has already started to turn its attention toward the general election contest against Biden, who is gliding to his party’s nomination without a serious primary challenge. Trump’s team has moved aggressively to take control of the Republican National Committee, which is expected to remain neutral in the primary.South Carolina primary: read more
    Analysis: defeated Haley pushes on
    Key dates for the 2024 election
    Who’s running for president?
    skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionTrump began his day in Washington, where he delivered a dark speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) before returning to South Carolina to attend an election-night watch party in the state capital, Columbia.Earlier in the day, Haley cast her ballot on Kiawah Island, her home precinct. Later, her cross-state Beast of the Southeast bus tour rolled into Charleston, where she spoke at an election-night watch party. In her remarks to supporters, Haley framed her presence in the race as a democratic obligation.“In the next 10 days, another 21 states and territories will speak,” Haley said. “They have the right to a real choice, not a Soviet-style election with only one candidate. And I have a duty to give them that choice.”Even as Haley has vowed to stay in the primary race as long as possible, Trump has made clear that he is already turning his attention to the general election. When he addressed his supporters in Columbia, Trump predicted that his decisive victory in South Carolina would soon be replicated in Michigan, which holds its primary on Tuesday.“Michigan’s up. We’re going to have a tremendous success there. And then we have a thing called Super Tuesday,” Trump said. “South Carolina, thank you very much. Go home. Get rest. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”Joe Biden weighed in on Saturday night as the results from South Carolina came to a final close.He said in a statement: “In 2020, I ran for president because the very soul of America was at risk. Last night in South Carolina, Donald Trump stood on stage to make shameful, racist comments that tap into a hatred and divisiveness that is the very worst of us. We all have more to do to push towards a more perfect union, but Trump wants to take us backwards.”He added: “Despite the threat that Trump poses, I will say again to the American people: I have never felt more optimistic about what we can do if we come together. Because I know that America believes in standing up for our democracy, fighting for our personal freedoms, and building an economy that gives everyone a fair shot.“To Republicans, Democrats, and independents who share our commitment to core values of our nation, join us. Let’s keep moving forward.” More

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    Another loss, but Haley presses on for Republicans not ready to crown Trump

    Losing South Carolina is almost always a bad omen for presidential hopefuls and defeat in a candidate’s home state is viewed as irrevocable. But as the last Republican standing between Donald Trump and the Republican party nomination, Nikki Haley thrilled supporters on Saturday by deftly capitalizing on her small but consistent show of support from voters desperate for an alternative.Trump was declared the winner within one minute of polls closing in the Palmetto State, an unsurprising but nevertheless stinging rebuke for Haley at the hands of the voters who twice elected her governor.“That is really something,” Trump told supporters in Columbia, the state’s capital. “This was a little sooner than we anticipated.”It was Haley’s fourth consecutive loss this primary season. With the odds – and history – weighted heavily against her, she refused to bow out. Addressing supporters at a primary night party in Charleston, Haley conceded to Trump, but said it was clear from the vote that a significant share – perhaps as much as 40% – of Republicans were not looking to coronate the king.“I said earlier this week that no matter what happens in South Carolina, I would continue to run,” Haley said. “I’m a woman of my word.”The chandeliered ballroom erupted in applause and chants of “Nikki!”These voters’ voices, and donations, are fuelling her long-shot bid, giving it life beyond South Carolina, a “winner-take-all” state. Her support will translate into little more than a handful of delegates at most, but it could achieve something else: reminding Trump that he has not fully captured the Republican party just yet.Haley, a former accountant, said she knew the math on Saturday did not add up to a victory. But, like the Republicans’ Cassandra, she warned: “I don’t believe Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden.”With most of the results tallied on Saturday night, Haley had captured just under 40% of the vote. “I know 40% is not 50%, but I also know that 40% is not some tiny group.”The risk for Republicans is that some of those voters, like Kathy Aven, say they will not support Trump in November.“Even if she drops out, I’m voting for Nikki,” said Aven, moments after Haley addressed her supporters on Saturday night. “If all I have is Biden or Trump, I’m voting for Nikki.”According to exit polls, 78% of Haley voters in South Carolina said they would be dissatisfied if Trump was the nominee; 82% said he would be unfit for the presidency if convicted of a felony; and just 4% believe he is physically and mentally fit to be president. She performed best among voters with independents, those with an advanced degree, and those who believed Biden was legitimately elected president in 2020.But as she continues to exasperate Trump and his allies, Haley’s own dilemma was laid bare in South Carolina. The “Tea Party governor”, who was once a rising star in Republican politics, is now an avatar of the anti-Trump resistance for her refusal to “kiss the ring”.And yet among those voters in the state who still like Haley, many love Trump more.“He is the best president in my lifetime,” said John, who declined to provide his last name, after casting his ballot for Trump at the main branch of the Charleston county public library.“I was a big Nikki fan. I still am, actually. I thought she was a wonderful governor of South Carolina,” he continued. “But I have the template for a guy that served four years as my president, and I know how I felt under Trump. I love Nikki as a governor. I love Trump as my president.”In her speech on Saturday, Haley vowed to continue telling “hard truths” until she is faced with her own hard truth about the path forward. Standing before voters in the state that raised her, Haley proved that she is not done fighting and is scheduled to visit the critical state of Michigan in the coming days.Amid her losing streak, that perseverance will remain memorable.Hours earlier, Haley accompanied her mother, a naturalized US citizen born in India, to the polls to cast a vote for her daughter who would be the first female president of the United States.“I am grateful that today is not the end of our story,” Haley said. More

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    Trump defeats Haley: South Carolina 2024 primary results in full

    South Carolina’s Republican voters went to the polls on Saturday to choose a candidate for president, with two significant choices left: the state’s former governor, Nikki Haley, and former president Donald Trump.Haley lost the New Hampshire primary last month by about 11 points, and polling suggested Trump would defeat his former ambassador to the United Nations by about 2-1 in her home state.The result was resounding in Trump’s favor.Here are the results of the primary election held on Saturday 24 February:Republicans runningDonald TrumpThe former US president’s campaign to retake the White House and once again grab his party’s nomination got off to a slow start that was widely mocked. But after decisive wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, his campaign has steadily moved into a position of dominance.Trump declined to attend any of the Republican debates, and has used his court appearances and many legal woes as a rallying cry to mobilize his base. His extremist rhetoric, especially around his plans for a second term and the targeting of his political enemies, has sparked widespread fears over the threat to American democracy that his candidacy represents.His political style during the campaign has not shifted from his previous runs in 2016 and 2020 and, if anything, has become more extreme. Many see this as a result of his political and legal fates becoming entwined, with a return to the Oval Office being seen as Trump’s best chance of nixing his legal problems.Nikki HaleyThe former South Carolina governor and ex-US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump has mostly hewed a fine line between being an alternative to Trump, while not outraging his base. But she has recently also positioned herself as the only viable younger candidate against both Trump and Joe Biden.That has paid off to some extent as Haley shone in debates and fundraising and rose past her competitors for the No 2 slot in the Republican race. But after losing by sizable margins in Iowa and New Hampshire, and most embarrassingly in Nevada, Haley’s chances have dwindled. Even so, she has vowed to stay in the race, even beyond South Carolina.Ryan BinkleyBinkley, a Texas businessman, is a long-shot candidate who is also a pastor at Create church. The self-proclaimed far-right fiscal conservative criticized both Democrats and Republicans for not being able to balance the federal budget, and said he would focus on health costs, immigration reform and a national volunteer movement. More

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    To Trump or not to Trump: Stefanik and Hutchinson offer contrasting Republican visions

    At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Elise Stefanik made her case for a glittering prize: the Republican nomination for vice-president to Donald Trump. At the Principles First summit on Saturday, Cassidy Hutchinson received a prize of her own: a Profiles in Courage award.Stefanik, who is 39 and the No 3 Republican in the US House, received standing ovations from an audience ultra-loyal to Trump. Hutchinson, 28, received standing ovations too, as she appeared with Alyssa Farah Griffin and Sarah Matthews, fellow Trump White House staffers turned Trump critics, before an audience of anti-Trump conservatives.Stefanik is a former moderate who has molded herself in Trump’s far-right image, to rise in a party locked in his grip. Hutchinson is a former Trump loyalist who became a star witness before the House January 6 committee.Hutchinson’s aim now, she said on Saturday, is to “bring people back to reality, to bring people back to not believing these conspiracy theories and the propagation of lies that Donald Trump has done”.Over two days of Washington talk, at two contrasting events, Stefanik and Hutchinson offered starkly differing visions of the present and future of the American right – as well as interesting studies in political star power.At CPAC, in the Maryland suburbs, Stefanik backed Trump’s lie about a stolen 2020 election, safe in the knowledge that most of her cheering audience would not remember what she said the day Trump’s supporters stormed Congress to try to overturn that result. For the record – which she allegedly sought to delete – Stefanik lamented “truly a tragic day for America” and demanded rioters be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”.At Principles First, an event linked to the Bulwark website and staged in downtown DC, echoes of January 6 were also strong. Hutchinson received her award from its previous recipient, Harry Dunn, a former police officer who helped defend the Capitol.Gesturing to people onstage, Matthews said: “We’re all lifelong Republicans or lifelong conservatives. We probably all agree with about 70% of Donald Trump’s policies. But I think we’re all very open-eyed to his character.Hutchinson said: “What we need to do is practice compassion for people who did fall into [Trump’s] seduction, people who were artificially duped. We have to help educate people out of that belief system. We have to plug them back in.”Describing the costs of her decision to stand against Trump, she emphasised the experiences of others, such as the Georgia elections workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman and the Arizona official Rusty Bowers, who also experienced “horrible attacks that ruined our lives”.“We need to push towards normalcy,” Hutchinson said. “We start in this next election. We start by doing everything we possibly can to make sure that Donald Trump never gets near the Oval Office again, and to make sure that every … ”Interrupted by applause, she eventually continued: “ … that every member of Congress that has enabled Donald Trump’s agenda is also held accountable and voted out of office.”That would include Stefanik, named by Farah as someone “we were very close with” but also someone comfortable with the “mental gymnastics” it takes to stay with Trump.View image in fullscreenAnother name came up: Mike Gallagher of Ohio, until this month a Republican rising star, now on his way out of the House after voting against an impeachment of Joe Biden mounted to satisfy Trump’s thirst for revenge and based on the claims of a man indicted for lying and linked to Russian intelligence.Gallagher’s retirement “makes me sad”, Matthews said, “because we need more people like Mike Gallagher in Congress and less people like Marjorie Taylor Greene.”skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionThat jab at the far-right Trump ally from Georgia drew its own applause. But Matthews also rebuked Stefanik and her ilk.“Sadly, people are more concerned with their own positions of power than they are with doing what’s right for the country. These people were elected not to serve Donald Trump. They’re there to serve their constituents, and they seem to have forgotten that.“They’re doing his bidding and they’re so concerned with not painting a target on their own back. Donald Trump, when people speak out against him, what does he do? He tries to find a primary opponent, so he gets them out and gets someone he would approve in … and it’s really disappointing because I think … people would believe the threat of Donald Trump if these elected officials would come out and say what I know they privately say.”Dunn, the former Capitol officer, is running to become an elected official, seeking a seat in Congress as a Maryland Democrat. Outside the ballroom, he could be overheard discussing a “small-business tour” in his prospective district. Listening to Hutchinson – then seeing her signing copies of her memoir and patiently posing for selfies, a line snaking off down the hall – it wasn’t hard to imagine her following a similar path. After all, it was a scene similar, in its way, to the one at CPAC that saw Stefanik surrounded by admirers as she spoke to Steve Bannon.On stage, Hutchinson said: “As I’ve been traveling around the country, I’ve been very encouraged by the amount of young people who see the threat Donald Trump poses and see we need to do more.“We need to do more to mobilise voters. We need to do more to educate voters. The reality of this next election is it’s going to come down to a handful of states, similarly to how it happened in 2020. We need to focus on those states and make sure that those constituents are adequately educated on who they’re voting for.“And if the ticket is a binary choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, people need to understand on a very basic, very fundamental level that there’ll be one candidate on that ballot that will support our democracy so we can continue to thrive. And it’s not Donald Trump.”Her audience rose to its feet again. More

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    Trump calls himself a ‘proud political dissident’ during CPAC speech – as it happened

    “A vote for Trump is your ticket back to freedom, it’s your passport out of tyranny and it’s your only escape from Joe Biden and his gang’s fast track to hell,” Donald Trump said.“And in many ways, we’re living in hell right now because the fact is, Joe Biden is a threat to democracy, really is a threat to democracy,” Trump continued.“I stand before you today not only as your past and hopefully future president, but as a proud political dissident. I am a dissident,” he said.Donald Trump has concluded his approximately 90-minute speech at CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland. Here are the key takeaways:
    If Joe Biden wins, “the worst is yet to come”, Trump warned the audience in his opening remarks. He went call Biden the “crookedest, most incompetent president in the history of our country”.
    Trump also mocked Biden and his mental capabilities and called the current president “a threat to democracy”. He went on to call himself a “proud political dissident”, adding: “A vote for Trump is your ticket back to freedom.”
    On his legal troubles, Trump compared himself to American gangster Al Capone, saying: “I’ve been indicted more than Alphonse Capone.” He also accused the Biden administration and Democrats of “weaponizing” the justice department and FBI.
    Trump, who previously compared his criminal indictments to the persecution of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who suddenly died last week, described his court cases as “Stalinist show trials”. He then accused the Biden administration of replacing “law, precedent, and due process with a rabid mob of radical left Democrat partisans masquerading as judges and juries and prosecutors”.
    On foreign policy, Trump said that if he had been president, Hamas’s attack on Israel and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would have never happened. He then descended into a lengthy ramble on how he attempted to strong-arm Mexico over his border security measures – while veering into stories of his flight to Iraq, pilots who were “better looking than Tom Cruise” and his attempt to award himself the congressional Medal of Honor.
    On border security, Trump vowed that his first order of business as president would be “sealing the border, stopping the invasion” and sending “Joe Biden’s illegal aliens back home”. He then said there are languages in the US that nobody has ever heard of, calling it a “horrible thing”.
    On law enforcement and crime, Trump vowed that he could solve crime rates “in one day, in one hour, in one minute” if he was president. He then said: “We have the greatest law enforcement people in the world but they’re not allowed to do their job.”
    Trump closed his speech by calling on voters to vote for him in South Carolina, where the state’s Republican primary is being held today. “We’re going to win the election. We’re going to win it big and we’re going to win it bigger than ever before,” he said.
    That’s it from me, Maya Yang, as we wrap up the blog for today. Thank you for following along.“Our country is run by people that are destroying it. We’re not going to let it happen. We’re going to have a great military … our country is going to function properly,” Donald Trump said in his closing remarks.“I’m going to leave you with this one final message. We’re going to win the election. We’re going to win it big and we’re going to win it bigger than ever before … We are going to make America great again,” he said.Expressing his support for law enforcement, Donald Trump said: “We have the greatest law enforcement people in the world but they’re not allowed to do their job.”“Chicago could be solved in one day. New York could be solved in half a day … New York police, I grew up with them. They’re the greatest people … You have great people and they can do their job if they’re allowed to do their job but they don’t want to lose their pension, they don’t want to lose everything.“I could solve that problem in one day, in one hour, in one minute,” he added.Donald Trump went on to recall how he asked his staff if he could give himself the congressional Medal of Honor following his flight into Iraq.“I see my staff … and I said, ‘Let me ask you a question. Is the president of the United States allowed to give himself the congressional Medal of Honor because I did a very brave thing? I was so brave. Am I allowed to do it? And they said, ‘Sir, it would not be a good thing to do.’”He went on to say: “Now here’s the problem with that story. The fake news media will lead tomorrow, ‘Donald Trump wanted to give himself the congressional [Medal of Honor].”Donald Trump has descended into a story of his experience flying into Iraq when he was president.Describing the pilots, Trump said: “I sat with the pilots … the best-looking human beings I’ve ever seen. Not my thing … but they are handsome. Central casting. Better looking than Tom Cruise and taller.”Describing his border plans, Donald Trump said, “It will be the largest deportation in the history of our country and we have no choice.”“It’s not a nice thing to say and I hate to say it and those clowns in the media will say, ‘Oh he’s so mean,’” Trump said.He went on to attack languages, saying, “We have languages coming into our country…they have languages that nobody in this country has ever heard of. It’s a horrible thing.”Donald Trump vowed that his “first and most urgent action” as president will be the “sealing of the border, stopping the invasion … send Joe Biden’s illegal aliens back home”.“We’re going to have to do them fast because no country can sustain what’s happening in our country,” he said, adding: “It’s a new category of crime and I wanted to call it ‘Biden migrant crime’ but it’s too long so we just call it ‘migrant crime’.”Donald Trump described his legal woes and court appearances as “Stalinist show trials”.“The Stalinist show trials being carried out at Joe Biden’s orders set fire not only to our system of government but to hundreds of years of western legal tradition,” he said.“They’ve replaced law, precedent, and due process with a rabid mob of radical left Democrat partisans masquerading as judges and juries and prosecutors,” he added.“For years, you watched the entire Washington cesspool … feeding on the wealth and hopes and dreams of hardworking Americans,” Donald Trump told the crowd.“November 5 will be our new liberation day, but for the liars and cheaters and fraudsters and censors and impostors who have commandeered our government, it will be their judgment day,” he added.“Your victory will be our ultimate vindication, your liberty will be our ultimate reward and the unprecedented success of the United States of America will be my ultimate and absolute revenge,” he continued.Donald Trump pivoted to foreign policy by saying that numerous ongoing conflicts would have been avoided had he been president.“The attack on Israel would have never happened. Iran was broke. They were broke. Ukraine would have never happened,” he said.He went on to tell a cheering crowd: “Crooked Joe Biden, you are fired. Get out of here. Get that you’re just destroying our country. You’re fired. Get the hell out of here.”“We can break out of this Biden nightmare,” Donald Trump said.He went on to attack migrants, saying: “They’re coming from Asia, they’re coming from the Middle East, coming from all over the world, coming from Africa, and we’re not going to stand for it … They’re destroying our country.”Donald Trump also went on to compare himself to American gangster Al Capone, saying: “Remember, I’ve been indicted more than Alphonse Capone.”“It’s very dangerous. What’s going on? They’ve weaponized government. They’ve weaponized the DOJ, the FBI. We’ve never had anything like this in this country,” he continued.“They are indeed a threat to democracy and I’m here to unleash this captive nation from Joe Biden and his gang of very bad people, very sick people, smart people, intelligent people, but they are hellbent on the destruction of American freedom,” Trump added. More

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    ‘I’m so proud of her’: Nikki Haley supporters vote in South Carolina primary

    Cindy Tripp, still recovering from a surgery she’d undergone earlier that week, convinced her husband to accompany her to Patriots Point on Friday night to watch Nikki Haley rally supporters one last time before the voters of South Carolina rendered their verdict in the Republican presidential primary.“I’m not supposed to be here,” Tripp said, laughing as the sun set over the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier, the backdrop for Haley’s rally on the eve of the Republican primary. “But I couldn’t miss this because I’m so proud of her.”Tripp, who turns 60 next week, cast her ballot for Haley just after polls opened on the first day of early voting on 12 February. Ahead of Saturday’s primary, she has worked to get out the vote in South Carolina, where Haley is bracing for a loss to Donald Trump in the state that twice elected her governor.But some of her supporters are vowing to stick with their candidate until the end.Haley is Trump’s last remaining primary rival. Casting herself as David taking on Goliath, she has refused to drop out of the race, thrilling voters like Tripp who say they no longer feel welcome in Trump’s Republican party.“Nikki represents an opportunity for us to finally speak,” Tripp said.On a Beast of the South-East bus tour across her “sweet” South Carolina, Haley was often greeted by crowds of women and girls eager to see her make history. But also – and more importantly, they emphasize – she would restore a sense of normalcy to American politics.View image in fullscreenView image in fullscreen“She’s not the best woman for the job. She’s the best person for the job,” said Judith Smith, who carried a homemade Run Nikki Run sign at a Haley event in Moncks Corner on Friday.South Carolina primary: read more
    When to expect South Carolina results
    Key dates for the 2024 election
    Who’s running for president?
    Haley’s steep odds in South Carolina
    Those like Smith who recall Haley’s tenure as governor point to her stewardship of the state’s economy and her leadership in the wake of the racist massacre at the historically Black Mother Emanuel AME Church in 2015. Others cite her foreign policy experience as United Nations ambassador under Trump.But a not insignificant source of her support is her opponent.“To be honest, I hate Trump,” said Barbara Bates, 76, of Goose Creek, when asked about her support for Haley.Bates – a Republican who voted for Haley as governor, and who was wearing a Haley campaign shirt that quipped “underestimate me, that will be fun” – said she was under no illusion that Trump could be stopped from winning the nomination. She nevertheless believed it was important for Haley to stand in his way as he attempts to stamp out any strain of resistance to his nomination.“I appreciate her hanging in and not dropping out,” Bates said. “In 2020 I didn’t get a vote in the presidential primary because South Carolina went ahead and anointed Trump. At least she gave me a vote.”View image in fullscreenWith most of the Republican base in Trump’s thrall, Haley’s coalition is a hodgepodge of conservatives who remember her as the “Tea Party governor”, and anti-Trump Republicans and independents disillusioned by the prospect of a November rematch between Trump, a 77-year-old former president facing 91 felony charges, and Joe Biden, the deeply unpopular incumbent.She also appeals to some Democrats fearful of a Trump second term and indifferent toward Biden. South Carolina is among the states that allow registered Democrats to vote in the Republican primary – as long as they didn’t participate in their party’s contest earlier this month.At an event in Georgetown this week, Morgan Derrick, a self-described “curious Democrat”, said she liked Haley’s foreign policy approach and her economic plans. But she has concerns with Haley’s conservative views on abortion.Derrick said abortion was “probably the highest policy on my mind” though she had disagreements with Biden on other issues, leaving her unsure of how she would vote.“It’s a very complicated field out there,” Derrick said.A Suffolk University/USA Today poll of South Carolina Republican primary voters found that 59% of respondents who identified themselves as liberals or moderates said they’d vote for the former South Carolina governor, compared with just 38% who said they would back Trump. Among those who said the most important issue of the future is democracy, 63% favored Haley.Not all of Haley’s supporters are anti-Trump. Some are enthusiastically pro-Haley. A group of Republican women cheered wildly and danced in the crowd as they waited for Haley’s bus to arrive in Moncks Corner. Some wore shirts that said “barred permanently” – a reference to Trump’s threat to ex-communicate any donor who continued giving to her campaign.View image in fullscreenSeveral of those same supporters arrived at Haley’s evening event wearing feather boas and “women for Nikki” pins. They praised her as a “role model” and a “leader” who was “smart as a whip” and could unify the country.When she finishes speaking, Haley is regularly mobbed by women and young girls, who often receive extra attention from the candidate. She autographs their posters with a heart and a personalized note and poses for selfies.“She seems like a voice for the future,” said Trish Mooney, 60, who attended a Haley event in Georgetown this week.Haley has also attracted a loyal group of out-of-state volunteers, some who have followed her campaign from Iowa. A Massachusetts man handing out yard signs in Moncks Corner said he felt compelled to do what he could to defeat Trump.Marti Leib, an independent who said she never votes a straight party-line ticket, came from Florida with her tiny dog, Kipper, to support Haley’s campaign in the state. In a view shared by several attendees at the candidate’s Friday campaign stops, Leib said the November election presents an existential choice for Americans – and that Haley is the only candidate left in the race who can save the country.“If we don’t do something right this election season, we’re gonna fall like the Roman empire,” said Leib, 73. “It’s downright scary.”View image in fullscreenDespite Haley’s dwindling odds, some of her most loyal supporters aren’t ready to confront the question of who they will vote for in November if – but if they’re honest, when – she drops out of the race.“That’s like choosing between a hedgehog and a porcupine,” said Smith. Neither, she clarified, were desirable choices. More

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    ‘We’re going to lose our grasp on democracy’: divided GOP voters weigh in on US aid to Ukraine

    When Donald Trump declared he would allow Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to Nato members who fail to meet funding commitments, world leaders and Democratic lawmakers reacted with shock and alarm. But Douglas Benton, a 70-year-old Republican voter from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was quite pleased.“Yes. I’m glad that Trump said we wouldn’t back you up if [Russian president Vladimir] Putin decides to take your ass over. We don’t care because you didn’t pay up,” Benton said. “If everyone participated, why don’t they put some money into the game and give Ukraine some money? Why does it always have to be us?”As he spoke to the Guardian, Benton held a large pro-Trump flag to protest Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s event in Myrtle Beach on Thursday, two days before the South Carolina Republican primary. When she took the stage, Haley articulated a very different view on the former president’s comments about Nato, accusing him of enabling dictators and abandoning crucial US allies.“Trump is siding with a dictator who kills his political opponents,” Haley said, referring to the death of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. “Trump is siding with Putin, who has made no bones about wanting to destroy America. And Trump is choosing to side with him over the allies that stood with us after 9/11?”The contrast underscored how foreign policy, and the specific question of providing additional aid to Ukraine to support its fight against Russia, has divided the Republican party in Washington and on the campaign trail.In Washington, a foreign aid package that includes $60bn in funding for Ukraine passed the Senate this month in a bipartisan vote of 70 to 29, with 22 Republicans supporting the proposal. But the House speaker, Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson, has already indicated that he will not allow a vote on the package amid entrenched opposition among hard-right members of his conference.The split is similarly reflected in the Republican party’s voting base. According to a Pew Research Center poll released in December, nearly half of Republicans and right-leaning independents believe the US is providing too much money to Ukraine. Only 9% of Republicans and right-leaning independents said the same in March 2022, right after the war began.The growing trend demonstrates how Trump’s “America First” approach to foreign policy, much at odds with the Republicans’ Reagan-era embrace of the country’s role as a leader on the global stage, has taken root in the party. Just this month, Trump helped kill a border and national security deal that included Ukraine funding, and he has suggested that any money sent to Kyiv should be treated as a loan.Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, was even more severe as he spoke at an event in Charleston on Friday, mocking claims that Ukraine aid was a top issue for members of his party. Trump Jr then conducted an informal survey of the roughly 50 voters in attendance, none of whom identified Ukraine as one of their top ten policy priorities.“And yet, they’re trying to get legislation this week for another $60bn,” Trump Jr said. “They will mortgage your children’s and grandchildren’s future to the hilt to defend a border in Ukraine.”Speaking to reporters after the event, Trump Jr brushed off widespread concerns among Nato leaders that Putin may invade other eastern European nations if he is successful in Ukraine. Trump Jr said he was “100%” confident that Putin would not attempt to expand beyond Ukraine if his father wins the White House in November.“It’s not logical,” he said. “He understands what he’d be up against if he were doing those things.”Trump’s most loyal supporters echo that opinion, insisting that the US should invest in domestic priorities like managing its border with Mexico instead of approving more funding for Ukraine.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotion“We need to start focusing on that and stop sending billions of dollars to Ukraine,” said Chris Pennington, a 51-year-old voter from Johns Island who attended the Charleston event. “And trust me when I say everybody I talk to agrees with me, and they say they’re sick of it too … When are they going to stop digging into our pockets and our tax dollars?”But many of Haley’s supporters in South Carolina share concerns expressed by the candidate – as well as Joe Biden, congressional Democrats and many world leaders – that global democracy could be jeopardized unless the US provides more aid to Ukraine.“It’s overdue, and I think that we’re going to lose our grasp on democracy if Russia takes over Ukraine,” said Trish Mooney, a 60-year-old voter from Georgetown who attended Haley’s event there on Thursday. “The writing’s on the wall.”So far, Trump appears to be winning the argument over the future of US foreign policy, as he is poised to easily defeat Haley on Saturday. According to the FiveThirtyEight average of South Carolina polls, Trump leads Haley by roughly 30 points in the state. Trump has already won the first three voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.Even if he wins the Republican presidential nomination, as is widely expected, the issue of Ukraine funding could become a liability for Trump in the general election. The same Pew poll that found about half of Republicans opposing more Ukraine funding showed that only 31% of all Americans believe the US is providing too much aid support to Kyiv.Morgan Derrick, a 30-year-old voter and self-described “curious Democrat” who attended Haley’s event in Georgetown, described the project of supporting Kyiv as an urgent priority.“I feel the need is immense. I can’t believe someone would think that it would be best if Russia won against Ukraine,” Derrick said. “If they take their democracy away, then what happens to the rest of the democratic countries in the world?” More

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    New Orleans magician says he made AI Biden robocall for aide to challenger

    A magician in New Orleans says he was the person who used artificial intelligence to create an audio recording of Joe Biden used in an infamous robocall and that he was paid by a consultant for the president’s primary challenger, Dean Phillips.NBC News reported Paul David Carpenter, who holds multiple world records and also works as a hypnotist, provided it with text messages, call logs and payment documentation to back up his claims.Carpenter claimed he was hired by Steve Kramer, a consultant for Phillips’s campaign, to use AI to mimic Biden’s voice discouraging people from voting in New Hampshire’s 23 January primary.“I created the audio used in the robocall [but] I did not distribute it,” Carpenter reportedly told NBC. “I was in a situation where someone offered me some money to do something and I did it.“There was no malicious intent. I didn’t know how it was going to be distributed.”The audio recording is currently under investigation by law enforcement officials, and prompted the US government to outlaw robocalls using AI-generated voices.Carpenter told NBC it was “so scary” how easy it was for him to produce the fake audio, saying it took less than 20 minutes and cost him $1. In return, he was paid $150, as documented in Venmo payments from Kramer and his father, Bruce Kramer, that Carpenter reportedly supplied to NBC.He also shared what he described as the original robocall audio file, which he manufactured with software from ElevenLabs, an AI firm that touts its ability to create a voice clone from existing speech samples.NBC said Kramer, a veteran political operative, did not comment on Carpenter’s version of events and would soon publish an opinion piece that would “explain all”.In a statement, Phillips’ campaign said it was “disgusted to learn that Mr Kramer is allegedly behind this call”.“If it is true that Mr Kramer had any involvement in the creation of deepfake robocalls, he did so of his own volition, which had nothing to do with our campaign,” said the campaign’s press secretary, Katie Dolan.“The fundamental notion of our campaign is the importance of competition, choice and democracy,” she added. “If the allegations are true, we absolutely denounce his actions.”Federal Election Commission records show that in December and January, the Phillips campaign paid nearly $260,000 to Kramer, who once worked on the 2020 presidential campaign for Ye, formerly known as Kanye West.NBC said it found no evidence to suggest the Minnesota congressman’s campaign had instructed Kramer to produce the audio or disseminate the robocall.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionCarpenter describes himself as a “digital nomad artist”, and perhaps his biggest previous claim to fame was setting the world records for fastest straitjacket escape and most fork bends in under a minute.“The only thing missing from the political circus is a magician, and here I am,” Carpenter joked.Carpenter has no fixed address but lists himself as a resident of New Orleans. Videos and images online show him in the streets of the city’s famed French Quarter neighborhood.New Hampshire authorities by 6 February issued cease-and-desist orders and subpoenas to two Texas companies believed to be linked to the robocall – Life Corporation, which investigators alleged was the robocall’s source, and Lingo Telecom, which they said transmitted it.After news of the robocall became known, the Federal Communications Commission ruled unanimously to either fine companies using AI voices in their calls or block any service providers that carry them.Phillips’ campaign has done little to affect Biden’s status as the presumptive Democratic nominee for November’s presidential election. On Thursday, the congressman floated the idea of running for the White House on a “unity ticket” with Nikki Haley, who was on track to lose the Republican primary to Biden’s presidential predecessor Donald Trump.Edward Helmore contributed reporting More