South Carolina GOP insiders claim Scott and Haley’s local ties insufficient to win early primary.

South Carolina has two natives in the 2024 presidential race, with former Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, but Republican operatives from the state don’t believe it’s enough to secure them a victory in the early state primary, they told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Although the two Republicans have served their state for years, former President Donald Trump still has a stronghold in South Carolina and would likely win the state’s primary if it were held today, several GOP political experts told the DCNF. For either Scott or Haley to be competitive in South Carolina’s primary, which is critical in determining the eventual Republican nominee, the experts said they would need to show a strong performance in key early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

“South Carolinians aren’t going to reward Tim Scott or Nikki Haley just for being from South Carolina,” Alex Stroman, former South Carolina GOP executive director, told the DCNF. “They have to show viability in Iowa or New Hampshire to have a chance of winning South Carolina.”

  • Two South Carolina natives, former Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, are running for president, but Republican operatives in the state don’t think their roots are enough to win them the state’s early primary, they told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • With former President Donald Trump’s stronghold in the state, the South Carolinians will have to show a strong performance in key early primary states to be competitive in their home state primary, the experts told the DCNF.
  • “South Carolinians aren’t going to reward Tim Scott or Nikki Haley just for being from South Carolina,” Alex Stroman, former South Carolina GOP executive director, told the DCNF. “They have to show viability in Iowa or New Hampshire to have a chance of winning South Carolina.”

Though Trump narrowly lost the Iowa caucus in 2016 to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the former president won South Carolina’s primary, beating Florida Sen. Marco Rubio 32.5% to 22.5%, after trouncing former Ohio Gov. John Kasich in New Hampshire by roughly 20 points. In 2020, the state decided to bypass their primary, as Trump already had such strong support within the South Carolina GOP.

Oran Smith, a senior fellow at the Palmetto Promise Institute, a conservative think tank in South Carolina, believes Trump has the advantage in the state because many South Carolinians still view him as the incumbent Republican president running for reelection, he told the DCNF. Smith said that although Scott and Haley are native South Carolinians, many feel that they’re “already committed” to the former president.

“The typical favorite son, favorite daughter type of advantage is not as pronounced for 2024 in the South Carolina Republican primary because of the presence of basically an incumbent president,” said Smith. “You have a number of different loyalties that are at play, and that in some ways, blunt one another. So that’s what the average South Carolina voter is trying to calculate.”

Stroman said Trump must win Iowa and New Hampshire to secure the nomination, but believes he will falter, which he said could provide an opening for either Scott or Haley to gain ground, making them more competitive in South Carolina’s primary. Early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire narrow the field, and South Carolina will choose the nominee,  Stroman predicted.

Jordan Bryngelson, former Dorchester County Republican Party chairman, believes that despite Scott and Haley’s roots in the state, he’s “certain” Trump would win the primary if it were held today, and noted that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has “momentum” in the state as well, with more “national clout” than either of the two South Carolinians, he told the DCNF.

Though Bryngelson said he wouldn’t count Scott or Haley out, as the senator is the state’s “darling,” and the former governor has a “great track record,” he argued they’d have to “do a lot of work” before he could picture them winning South Carolina’s primary.

“If one of them makes a really good showing in Iowa and New Hampshire,” Bryngelson said, “let’s say either one of them comes in maybe even second place, or if they were to win one — that would turn the tables coming into South Carolina.”

Stroman believes Haley and Scott will need to place in one or both of the early primary states, and believes if they lack “momentum” in either Iowa or New Hampshire, South Carolinians won’t vote for them. The two South Carolina Republicans still “absolutely have a shot” at winning their state’s primary, said Stroman, as he thinks Scott could win Iowa and Haley could win New Hampshire.

Iowa has a strong evangelical electorate, which Stroman said bodes well for the senator, who has put his Christian faith at the forefront of his political platform, and Haley has heavily campaigned in New Hampshire, where the Republican operative believes she is already “really popular.” In this scenario, Stroman believes it will be a “battle royale” between the two for their home state’s primary.

“I do think that there will be a South Carolinian by the time we get to the South Carolina’s primary who will be viable, and will have shown success in the early states, and absolutely can win South Carolina,” said Stroman.

According to a National Research Inc. poll released on Friday, Trump leads the crowded GOP field in South Carolina with 43% support, followed by DeSantis, Scott, and Haley, with 18%, 12% and 10%, respectively.

South Carolina 2024: Trump holds 25-point lead for Republican Nomination

Trump — 43% (+25)
DeSantis — 18%
T. Scott — 12%
Haley — 10%
Ramaswamy — 1%
Hutchinson — 1%
Pence — 1%
Sununu — 1%
Undecided — 13%

National Research | 500 LV | 05/24-25

— InteractivePolls (@IAPolls2022) May 26, 2023

Smith believes Trump will “most likely” win the state’s primary with a plurality, and DeSantis, Scott, and Haley will be “bunched together,” though he acknowledged the election is still far away, and said he “definitely” wouldn’t count out the two South Carolinians, or the Florida governor, just yet.

“Governor Haley proved every critic wrong, turned SC into a manufacturing powerhouse, and was the bold leader her state needed when crisis struck,” Ken Farnaso, spokesman for Haley, told the DCNF. “No job better prepares you for the presidency, and Nikki’s success shows the kind of leadership she’d bring to the White House.”

Haley was the second Republican candidate to jump into the race, following her former boss, Trump, who she served under as U.N. Ambassador for roughly two years. After serving as a state lawmaker, she became America’s first female minority governor and the then-youngest state executive in the country when elected to lead South Carolina in 2010. Haley was reelected in 2014, and appointed by Trump in 2016.

Scott, who made his entrance into the Republican primary on Monday, has been a public servant in South Carolina for nearly three decades, serving on Charleston’s City Council, in the state’s House of Representatives, in the U.S. Congress, and now in the Senate. Haley and the senator served together in the state legislature, and the former governor appointed Scott to the Senate in 2012, replacing then-Sen. ​​Jim DeMint.

Scott didn’t immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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