South Carolina Primary: Donald Trump easily defeats Nikki Haley in her home state

  • By Sam Cabral
  • BBC News, in Columbia, South Carolina

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WATCH: 'Joe, you're fired' – Trump focuses on Biden as Haley fights back

Donald Trump is one step closer to becoming the Republican presidential nominee after a landslide victory over Nikki Haley in South Carolina.

The former president won his primary opponent's home state by 20 points, his fourth consecutive victory.

As she celebrated, Mr Trump made no mention of Ms Haley, who has vowed to stay in the race. Instead, he was eyeing the general election in November.

It will be a rematch with his successor in the White House.

“We're going to look Joe Biden right in the eye,” he told supporters on Saturday night, minutes after the American media tipped Joe Biden as the winner. “He's destroying our country – we're going to say 'get out Joe, you're fired'.”

Mr Trump praised his party's “unity” after Saturday's decision: “There's never been a spirit like this. I've never seen the Republican Party so united.”

It marked a shift from his response to last month's primary in New Hampshire, where he railed against Ms Haley for “making a speech like she won”.

Ms. Haley, once a popular two-term governor of South Carolina, congratulated her opponent on her victory in her speech.

He vowed not to drop out, however, saying the roughly 40% of the votes he got was “not a small group”.

“There are a lot of voters in our Republican primaries who say they want an alternative,” he said, stressing that his ongoing campaign is not about his own political aspirations.

“I'm not giving up this fight when the majority of Americans disapprove of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” he added.

He has again vowed to stay in the race at least through Super Tuesday — March 5, when voters in 16 states go to polls on the same day.

“I am a woman of my word,” said the former UN ambassador. “We're going to Michigan tomorrow, and we're going to the states for Super Tuesday all next week.”

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Nikki Haley said she would not drop out of the race in a speech after the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

The Trump campaign dismissed Ms Haley's continued efforts in a statement on Saturday, saying her “delusion clouds her judgment and she is no longer living in reality”.

The Trump campaign predicts the former president will amass enough delegates to formally clinch the nomination by next month.

Ms Haley has no clear path forward – her opponent has a huge lead in delegates and votes in all future contests.

Nevertheless, the Haley campaign still stands. That liquidity continued despite her long odds.

Ms. Haley raised $16.5 million in January alone, campaign officials said. That's his biggest monthly sum ever, and more than Mr Trump's.

To drive home the point that he believes the primary is now over, Mr. Trump wasted no time in his victory speeches after being called to the race, not allowing Ms. Haley to speak before him, as he did in New Hampshire.

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Nearly two dozen allies stood by Mr Trump's side during his victory speech after the South Carolina primary.

At his podium at the Columbia State Fairgrounds, he told a cheering crowd of nearly two dozen allies, including most of the state's political leaders: “It was a little earlier than we expected.”

Mr Trump certainly has a lot to be proud of in this victory. An exit poll by the BBC's US partner, CBS News, showed the former president, Ms Haley, doing well among men and women and across all age groups.

Praising them for their support, Mr Trump, 77, reminded his audience: “We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

The former president is also plagued by his many legal troubles and faces the first of four criminal trials next month.

He's now on the hook for more than half a billion dollars, two recent civil lawsuits against him in New York — one for sexual assault and defamation, the other for business fraud.

With Mr Biden holding a substantial cash advantage over him in what could be the most expensive presidential race in US history, Mr Trump is increasingly relying on donations to cover his rising legal costs.

It looks like the Republican Party might help him. He has cemented his hold by endorsing key allies to lead its national team.

His daughter-in-law Laura Trump, who he picked to take over as co-chair of the Republican Party, has pledged to spend “every penny” of party funds on his legal defense.

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