Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Nikki Haley: Good, but Not Good Enough

Nikki Haley went before the voters of her home state last night, and she did pretty well. But she did not do well enough to win a meaningful number of delegates, or to cause anyone to rethink their conclusion that her campaign is going nowhere.

With just shy of 99% of the vote in, Donald Trump has 59.8% of the ballots and 44 delegates. Haley has 39.5% of the ballots and 0, 3, or 6 delegates. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has 0.4% of the vote and 0 delegates. We don't know if the DeSantis voters cast their ballots early, or if there are several thousand GOP voters in South Carolina who haven't seen a newspaper in the last month.

The reason that Haley's (and by extension, Trump's) delegate tally is unknown is that the South Carolina GOP awards 29 delegates to the overall winner of the state, plus 3 delegates to the winner of each individual congressional district. Because Haley did pretty well in South Carolina's most urban areas (the areas in and around Charleston and Columbia), it's not yet certain which candidate won SC-01 (Charleston) or SC-02 (Columbia). Some outlets have already awarded SC-01 to Haley, but not he AP,, so we've given Trump 44 delegates and Haley 0 in our count above. Odds are she wins SC-01 and Trump wins SC-02, resulting in a final count of 47 for the former president and 3 for his former UN Ambassador.

We wonder what Haley, and the donors who are keeping her campaign alive, are telling themselves right now. She previously said she was going to stay in until Super Tuesday—which, OK, it's only a couple of weeks away, so might as well. More recently, however, she's suggested she'll stay in much longer than that. Obviously, she's not going to get the nomination, or even make it close. There's virtually nothing Trump could do in the next couple months to derail his march forward, short of dropping dead. Haley says she doesn't want the VP slot, which we believe is the truth. Even if it's not the truth, continuing to challenge Trump, and to take potshots at him, is no way to end up as his running mate. And if she's really running for the 2028 nomination, well, losing bigly in primary after primary is not the best way to make the case that she should be the Party's future standard-bearer.

Meanwhile, Trump had a good weekend, in that he won South Carolina convincingly, while also delivering a batsh** crazy speech at CPAC that the crowd mostly loved. That said, we are duty-bound to point out that if you think of him as effectively an incumbent, it's not a good sign that a faux challenger took 40% of the vote. And exit polls from yesterday make clear that the Haley voters are exactly who you think they are: moderate, college-educated, suburban Republicans who regard Trump as too extreme. Further, according to AP VoteCast (which we can't link to, because it's subscription only), 1 in 5 people who cast ballots yesterday won't vote Trump in the general election. Assuming they stick with that, that would mean that about half of Haley's voters aren't going to come home to the Republican nominee. Undoubtedly, some of them will re-think their NeverTrump stance, but we suspect that most of them will not. And while that won't matter in ruby-red South Carolina, it will most certainly matter in the swingier states.

We had a brief report from our correspondent O.E. in Greenville, SC:

Today was the Republican Presidential Primary in South Carolina. It was a great deal more busy than the recent Democratic primary, yet less busy than the 2016 Republican Primary. I was in the same precinct I was in 3 weeks ago. The vote totals were: The election went smoothly, with a few minor glitches involving paper. In addition, quite a few people found out that due to redistricting, moving, or forgetting, they had to vote at another polling place. Further, several people found out that the DMV failed to change their address (regardless of party, race, age, or geographic area, it is best to re-register at the local elections office when you move).

It went relatively well, but things may change in June or later.

Thanks, O.E.! We also had a comment from popular commenter D.E. in Lancaster, PA:

With 99% of the South Carolina GOP primary vote in, Donald Trump has 59.8% of the vote and Nikki Haley has 39.5%. Of course, the mainstream media is carrying Trump's water while bending over to kiss his mighty buttocks by declaring it a stupendous, huge, never-seen-in-the-history-of-humankind win! But really, is it? He is the all-but-certain GOP nominee yet he can't garner even 60% of the Republican vote. That's the kind of spread you might see in a general election, but for a primary for the Leader of the Party? Yes, it's true that South Carolina is the state that Haley used to govern, which probably accounts for her larger-than-usual showing, but still, we are talking about Republicans who usually fall in line once their party speaks, and the Party is owned and operated by Trump. Even given Haley's home-field advantage, Trump should have had a stronger showing. The number of people who bothered to vote was nothing that even Trump could brag about—this is the Glaring Bright Red, Heart of Dixie, Land Of Cotton South Carolina and Trump can't break a half million votes in a Republican primary! Vladimir Putin, who knows a thing or two about owning the political apparatus, must be laughing at Donald the Лох right now and suggesting to his henchmen that they should put their efforts behind Plan C instead.

Of course, with our MSM, if this was a Democratic primary and Joe Biden got 60% of the vote, the headlines would be blaring "Democratic Civil War," with the subhead "Can Biden Save His Failing Campaign?" Biden gets 80-90% of the vote and the press act like it's a case of sympathy for the senile old man. Of course, when it's a Republican primary, it's "Trump Deals Knockout Blow" with "Crushes Haley In Her Own Backyard!" The media, in their attempts to make this a horse race, just aren't reading the room right. Instead of talking about Biden's age or making their billionth visit to a rural diner, perhaps the press should be examining if there is Trump fatigue in the GOP and stop taking Trump's word on the matter as Gospel.

It was not only the South Carolina primary that caught my attention. I also listened to some of Trump's speeches to very friendly audiences this week. Now, I admit my bias against Trump, but I will always give the Devil his due. In the past, while I viewed his rally speeches as the horribly confused and nonsensical ramblings of a self-centered madman, they at least had a certain amount of energy and strange watchability to them, as in "Oh my God, is that truck carrying orphans going to crash into that truck carrying puppies?" kind of entertainment. But listening to Trump's speech to the National Religious Broadcasters convention earlier this week, and the one of a billion CPAC conventions (seriously, are these things weekly or daily events now?), they both had a listlessness to them that seemed surreal.

In the speech to the Religious Broadcasters, Trump sounded like he was drunk, constantly slurring over his words, having an impossible go at pronouncing "evangelicals" and generally mustering all the enthusiasm of a not so remarkable rock resting in some average dirt. The applause by the audience seemed scattered and thin—think the applause for PricewaterhouseCoopers during the Oscars. Unfortunately, the camera didn't include any shots of the crowd to see if they were paying rapt attention to Trump's slur-a-thon or if it they been distracted by a fresh coat of drying paint instead. These are His People, and yet they seemed bored with the whole affair.

For the CPAC speech, at least Donnie seemed like he was at least partially awake. Still, his ramblings must have caused Jeb! to declare, "And he called me low energy?" When Trump is being forced to say something he doesn't want to say, or he is generally bored, his voice gets that sing-songy quality to it and that was out in force for this one. Probably the most telling thing of the speech is that the video showed the audience's reactions. For Trump's end of speech "crescendo," a great portion of the attendees rose to their feet and enthusiastically applauded their God-Emperor, but still there were noticeable pockets of people who stayed in their seats, looking bored and defiant. Yes, for even the best of theatrical performances, there is going to be a contingency that refuses, either through laziness or lack of enthusiasm, to give a standing ovation. But we're talking CPAC here, where the crowd would bring down the House in uproarious adulation if Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) accidentally broke wind on stage. These aren't simply His People but also the most rabid and hardcore of the party, and yet a noticeable portion did not pay fealty to Dear Leader! In Mother Russia, that would earn a hearty push out the window or some glow-in-the-dark tea! It is unheard of... especially if you read the NYT or WaPo!

Thanks, D.E.!

Next up, as you can see from the map above, is Michigan. Then a few states will have caucuses next Saturday, and then it will be Super Tuesday. Oh, and the State of the Union is 2 days after that. So, we have a couple of pretty big weeks coming up, and then after that, things are going to be pretty boring for a while. (Z)

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