Three things to watch for in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary

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(WASHINGTON) — South Carolina is set to hand former President Donald Trump a landslide victory in its GOP presidential primary Saturday, dealing former Gov. Nikki Haley another setback in her home state.

Trump is on an apparent glide path to his third straight GOP White House nomination, having handily won nominating contests so far in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Haley, meanwhile, has yet to come close to winning any of those states, with the rest of the calendar looking equally foreboding, polling shows.

Still, she insists she will carry on at least through early March.

Here are three things to watch in South Carolina’s primary.

How big is Trump’s margin of victory?

Virtually every Republican operative in South Carolina predicts Trump will win the state’s primary. The only question is by how much.

538’s polling average has the former president up by 30 points, a margin that, if true, would land a devastating blow to Haley in her home state, which she led as governor for six years.

Haley has nodded toward the likelihood that Trump will win big in South Carolina, maintaining that she will stay in the race through Super Tuesday on March 5. Still, such a loss would cut into whatever momentum her campaign still has.

On the flip side, Trump’s consistent polling lead has produced such sky-high expectations that Haley could claim any performance beating them could warrant her staying in the race.

Cue the drop out chatter

Should Haley get washed out as expected, the ongoing talk about when she may suspend her campaign will likely ramp up to 11.

Already, strategists have publicly and privately wondered what value Haley sees in staying in given her recent defeats and the daunting path ahead. When Haley advertised a major speech on Tuesday, Republicans thought the long-awaited announcement had come.

Instead, the former governor defied calls for her departure.

“South Carolina will vote on Saturday. But on Sunday, I’ll still be running for president. I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

Haley continued her defiant tone against Trump, saying she does not fear for her political future.

“Well, I’m not afraid to say the hard truths out loud. I feel no need to kiss the ring. And I have no fear of Trump’s retribution. I’m not looking for anything from him,” she said. “My own political future is of zero concern.”

What’s next?

There is a small handful of races between Saturday’s primary and Super Tuesday, but March 5 is easily the next big date on the calendar.

Fifteen states will hold their nominating contests that day, and 36% of all delegates (874 out of 2,429) will be awarded.

Some of those states allow Democrats and independents to participate in their primaries and caucuses, a dynamic Haley has highlighted to suggest she could see a modicum of success then, given her inability to win over big enough swaths of Republicans so far.

Still, polling doesn’t show her near Trump in any state voting that day, and while Haley has insisted that her campaign will live on beyond South Carolina, she has said less about what comes after Super Tuesday should she fall even further behind.

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