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Donald Trump wins South Carolina primary but Nikki Haley vows to fight on

Donald Trump wins South Carolina primary but Nikki Haley vows to fight on

Donald Trump won South Carolina's Republican primary, soundly defeating his sole opponent Nikki Haley in her home state.

The 77-year-old has now swept every contest that counted for Republican delegates, adding to previous wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and the US Virgin Islands.

It means the 2017-2020 president is the likely candidate to take on incumbent Joe Biden for the White House in November’s vote.

Ms Haley is facing growing pressure to leave the race but says she is not going anywhere despite losing the state where she was governor from 2011 to 2017.

Down but not out: Nikki Haley is set to contest further votes (AFP via Getty Images)
Down but not out: Nikki Haley is set to contest further votes (AFP via Getty Images)

Ms Haley has vowed to stay in the race through at least the batch of primaries on March 5, known as Super Tuesday, but was unable to dent Mr Trump's momentum in her home state despite holding far more campaign events and arguing that the indictments against Mr Trump will hamstring him against Mr Biden.

Mr Trump was declared the winner by the exit poll at 7pm on Saturday.

That race call was based on an analysis of AP VoteCast, a comprehensive survey of Republican South Carolina primary voters.

The survey confirmed the findings of pre-Election Day polls showing Mr Trump far outpacing Ms Haley in the state that is often a bellweather.

Don Trump has said that he has never seen his party more united (AFP via Getty Images)
Don Trump has said that he has never seen his party more united (AFP via Getty Images)

"I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now," Mr Trump declared, taking the stage for his victory speech mere moments after polls closed.

Mr Trump was dominant across the state, even leading in Lexington County, which Ms Haley represented in the state Legislature.

Many Trump-backing South Carolinians, even some who previously supported Haley during her time as governor, weren't willing to give her a home-state bump.

"She's done some good things," Davis Paul, 36, said about Ms Haley as he waited for Mr Trump at a recent rally in Conway.

"But I just don't think she's ready to tackle a candidate like Trump.

"I don't think many people can."

At Haley headquarters on Saturday night, supporters waved her signs in front of a large projection screen showing Mr Trump's speech, blocking it from view.

About an hour later, Ms Haley took the stage and said: "What I saw today was South Carolina's frustration with our country's direction.

"I've seen that same frustration nationwide."

"I don't believe Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden," Ms Haley said, later adding: "I said earlier this week that no matter what happens in South Carolina, I would continue to run.

"I'm a woman of my word."

She said she plans to head to Michigan for its primary on Tuesday, the last major contest before Super Tuesday.

Still, she faces questions about where she might be able to win a contest or be competitive.

Mr Trump and Mr Biden are already behaving like they expect to face off in November.

Mr Trump and his allies argue Mr Biden has made the US weaker and point to the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and Russia's decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Trump has also repeatedly attacked Mr Biden over high inflation earlier in the president's term and his handling of record-high migrant crossings at the US-Mexico border.

Mr Trump has questioned, often in harshly personal terms, whether the 81-year-old Mr Biden is too old to serve a second term.

Mr Biden's team in turn has highlighted the 77-year-old Mr Trump's own gaffes on the campaign trail.