Feb 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

What to know about the South Carolina GOP primary

Side-by-side of Nikki Haley and Donald Trump speaking to supporters

Republican presidential hopefuls Nikki Haley and former President Trump will battle it out on Saturday in South Carolina's GOP primary. Photos: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Former President Trump and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley are set to face off in Saturday's South Carolina Republican primary.

Why it matters: Though the Palmetto State is Haley's home turf as the former governor, she has trailed behind Trump in the polls and previous primaries.

  • The GOP race comes just three weeks after the state's Democratic primary, where President Biden scored a landslide victory during the first Democratic primary contest that awarded delegates.
  • Haley has so far vowed to stay in the presidential race beyond South Carolina, until at least Super Tuesday, despite calls from some in her own party to suspend her underdog campaign. During a speech this week, she affirmed: "I refuse to quit."

Here's what to know about the state's primary set for Saturday, Feb. 24.

Who can vote in the S.C. primary?

  • South Carolina's primaries are open to all voters, regardless of party.
  • Anyone who did not already participate in the state's Democratic primary earlier this month can vote on Saturday.

There are 50 delegates up for grabs in the Palmetto State.

  • 29 will be given to the winner in the statewide vote.

Between the lines: Haley has eyed more than a dozen states with open primaries as a long-shot strategy, to give her a boost by appealing to independents and Democrats.

  • Trump prevailed in the suburbs of New Hampshire during its primary. It was a blow to Haley, who sought to appeal to the voting bloc that was a vulnerability for the former president in 2020.

How to vote in S.C. primary?

  • Polls will open at 7am and close at 7pm ET.
  • Visit scVOTES.gov to find your polling place and make sure you're registered. (Early voting closed Thursday.)

Will South Carolinians vote Trump or vote Haley?

  • Haley trailed Trump by about 30 percentage points in the state as of Thursday, according to FiveThirtyEight's polling average.
  • The former president has also won endorsements from most of the prominent lawmakers in the state, including Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) last month.
  • "South Carolina will vote on Saturday. But on Sunday, I'll still be running for president. I'm not going anywhere," Haley said during the speech in Greenville this week.

Don't forget: Biden clashed with DNC over S.C.

  • South Carolina had been at the center of a convoluted clash between Biden and the Democratic National Committee.
  • Democrats approved Biden's proposed primary calendar back in early 2023, a move designed to allow states with racially diverse populations — like South Carolina — a bigger say in these early races.
  • He had been urging the DNC to change its primary calendar so that South Carolina held the leadoff race.

However, New Hampshire legislators refused to let go of their first-in-the-nation primary status, leaving the Democratic race there, where Biden also won via a write-in campaign, purely symbolic.

Go deeper: Nikki Haley's got a Trump problem in South Carolina

Go deeper