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Support for Haley on the rise in SC following strong showing in first Republican debate

August 29, 2023
| The State by Javon L. Harris

South Carolina’s Nikki Haley racked up support for her 2024 presidential bid as she rode the high of her first presidential primary debate performance before a large crowd in her home state.

Following an uptick in her campaign after her widely lauded debate performance last Wednesday, Haley attracted more than a thousand potential voters during a town hall at the CrossRidge Center in Indian Land on Monday. In the largest crowd the venue has seen, the former S.C. governor touted her record on immigration and national security while gliding on the tenacity some voters say has landed them firmly her corner.

“I’ve been on the fence about Nikki for a long time, but the debate the other night brought me over to her side,” said Jude Sowell, 68, an Independent who traveled from Charlotte for the event. “She showed some real backbone, and that’s something I had not seen from her in the last couple of years, but I thought she really had the best performance among any of those guys.”

Haley, who went into the first Republican primary debate polling in the single digits nationally, came out taking shots at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott — and at frontrunner Donald Trump himself.

Her presidential campaign says it received more online donations in the first 24 hours after the debate than in any other single day of her campaign, which kicked off in February. And traffic to the campaign website increased tenfold, as viewership on the campaign’s YouTube and other social media surged.

“Did any of you happen to watch the debate?” Haley asked the Indian Land crowd. “Bless his heart,” Haley said, referring to Vivek Ramaswamy, who, during last Wednesday’s debate, said he’s opposed to continuing to fund the war in Ukraine. “If you say something that’s totally off the wall, I’m going to call you on it every single time.”

It was that sort of grit that wooed a throng of Haley supporters Monday.

“I want her to just have an opportunity to tell others about her no nonsense approach to government and to the country,” said Diane Crawford, 68, of Rock Hill. “I feel very confident that I would sleep well at night knowing she was in the White House.”

A Washington Post poll after the debate found 29% of debate watchers believe DeSantis performed the best; 26% said Ramaswamy performed the best; and 15% said Haley.

Haley also saw the percentage of people who would consider voting for her increase to 46% after the debate, up from 29% pre-debate, the greatest improvement out of anyone in the field, according to the Washington Post poll.

Haley’s foreign policy experience — especially in relation to China — as former ambassador to the United Nations has lured a number of conservative voters, who not only say they fear for the country’s national security, but also for the increasing divisiveness spreading throughout the Republican party and the nation.

“Her experience with foreign affairs, dealing with a lot of different views, gives her some expertise in swaying Congress and unifying the Republican Party,” said Fred Davidson, 68. “But it’ll also help with the issues we’re facing with China and Russia.”

As South Carolina remains one of only two states without a hate crimes law, Haley told supporters that there’s no place for hate in America, citing a racially-motivated shooting that occurred in Jacksonville, Florida, over the weekend. She did not, however, signal whether a hate crimes law was due in the Palmetto State.

“All of this division and hate has got to stop,” Haley said. “But don’t fall into the narrative that this is a racist country.”

While on Monday Haley belabored what she considers to be the ills of America, including soaring inflation and a lack of boarder security, she told supporters that “the time for whining is over.”

“Now we get to work,” she said, showcasing her plan to alleviate the plagues she claims President Joe Biden has caused toward crime, the economy and foreign policy.

“We can do this,” Haley said. “But it’s going to take a lot of courage.”

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