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The Excerpt podcast: Nikki Haley still running after loss in home state of South Carolina

On Monday's episode of The Excerpt podcast: USA TODAY White House Correspondent Francesca Chambers looks at what's next for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and the Republican presidential field after Haley's big loss to former President Donald Trump in her home state. Israel and the U.S. continue to differ on resolutions in Gaza. USA TODAY National Correspondent Trevor Hughes breaks down the high turnover rate plaguing election offices nationwide. Florida's surgeon general is under fire for defying CDC recommendations as measles cases spread in the state. Flaco, the New York City owl has died.

Hit play on the player below to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript beneath it.  This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

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Taylor Wilson:

Good morning, I'm Taylor Wilson, and today is Monday, February 26th, 2024. This is The Excerpt.

Today, what's next for the Republican presidential race after a big loss for Nikki Haley over the weekend? Plus, the U.S. and Israel still can't see eye to eye on resolutions in Gaza and threats, and high turnover rates are slamming elections offices around the country.

Former President Donald Trump rolled on in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, defeating former Governor, Nikki Haley, in her home state by around 20 percentage points. But Haley said she's not dropping out of the race. I caught up with USA Today, White House correspondent, Francesca Chambers, who is covering the primary for more on why Haley's staying in the race and what could happen next.

Francesca, thanks for hopping on The Excerpt today.

Francesca Chambers:

Hi there. Thanks.

Taylor Wilson:

So Francesca, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, said she's not dropping out of the race despite this big loss in her home state. I'm curious what's in it for her at this point to stay in the race and what case is she making to supporters and donors to continue the fight?

Francesca Chambers:

Well, Haley is arguing that Americans deserve a choice in the election, and that by the time they get to the general election, if their choices are set between Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, that for many Americans that may feel like not much of a choice at all. And I hear that routinely from her supporters coming out at rallies. These are Republicans and independents who were just dissatisfied with the direction of the country and they don't want to see another matchup between two politicians from the major parties who are seventy-seven and eighty-one respectively.

Taylor Wilson:

How long can she keep this up, Francesca?

Francesca Chambers:

Well, that all depends on the next few days and how many donations come in. We knew that at the end of January, she had $13 million left in the bank, but her campaign has also spent money since then on South Carolina. It's running ads in Michigan, it says it's going to be running ads nationally as well heading into Super Tuesday.

I had a chance to speak with Haley in a gaggle over the weekend and I asked her about something she said about how she was planning to campaign every day until the last person votes. She clarified and said what she meant was South Carolina at the time. She says that she's focusing on one state at a time here and she hasn't thought any further than those Super Tuesday contests.

Taylor Wilson:

As for Trump, Francesca, did we hear from him after the win? And what's the focus for him going forward as we move towards Super Tuesday next month? Might his decision around a running mate for instance, take center stage in this race going forward?

Francesca Chambers:

That's the scoop that everyone is trying to get is, who is Donald Trump looking at to be his potential vice president? There's been a number of names that are floating around and some people are outright competing for it, but they're keeping that very close to their chest. In fact, his son Donald Trump Jr was in South Carolina the other day and asked about it and dodged. He said he hadn't seen his father very much recently, because they've been in separate states. So we'll have to stay tuned to see who that person might be.

Taylor Wilson:

So Michigan is the next primary up on the calendar this week. Francesca, what should we be keeping an eye out for in the Great Lakes state and what's up next afterwards on the election calendar?

Francesca Chambers:

Well, Haley is hoping to repeat some of the success that she had in New Hampshire in the state of Michigan, which doesn't have party registration at the primary and so anyone can vote in whichever primary that they want. So she's definitely hoping to peel off independents from both Trump and Biden in that primary. Then, she's on to a series of states and one territory that vote on Super Tuesday. You've also got a few sandwiched in between, including the District of Columbia.

Taylor Wilson:

All right. Francesca Chambers is the White House correspondent with USA Today. Thank you, Francesca.

Francesca Chambers:

Thank you so much.

Taylor Wilson:

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity Action, the conservative grassroots organization founded by billionaire Charles Koch is ending all spending in support of Haley's campaign. The group CEO told staff in an email sent yesterday obtained by USA Today that its political arm was refocusing spending efforts on house and senate races.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel is in sync with the U.S. about its plan to invade Rafah, the densely populated city in southern Gaza, but President Joe Biden still has not seen a viable plan for the operation. According to a top White House official yesterday. Just under 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. The ministry does not differentiate between combat and civilian deaths. Israel continues to push for the release of hostages in Gaza who were taken during last year's Hamas attacks that killed some 1200 people. Israel says its troops have killed more than 10,000 militants without providing evidence.

Meanwhile, an active-duty U.S. Air Force member set himself on fire outside the Israel embassy in Washington yesterday afternoon according to authorities. The man was transported to a hospital with critical, life-threatening injuries. Officials declined to say whether the incident was a form of protest, but a person who spoke with the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity said the man, whose name was not immediately released, live-streamed himself on the video-streaming platform, Twitch. According to the AP and other media reports, at one point he shouted, "Free Palestine," and that he would no longer be complicit in genocide.

Harassment and high turnover rates are rocking elections offices around the country. I spoke with USA Today, national correspondent Trevor Hughes, to get to the heart of the issue. Trevor, it's always a pleasure having you on.

Trevor Hughes:

Absolutely.

Taylor Wilson:

So Trevor, can you just start by talking about the level of harassment many election workers have faced in recent years? How bad has this gotten and what are some examples of what we're talking about?

Trevor Hughes:

I mean, we're talking death threats. We're talking fentanyl-laced letters. I was actually in a clerk's office in Nevada recently, and they had to build what is essentially, a penalty box, a glass-fronted penalty box, because some of the people who've been observing the election process, the counting process, have gotten so disruptive and threatening to the workers.

Taylor Wilson:

Wow. How many workers now are leaving the field amid this harassment? What kind of turnover are we seeing? I

Trevor Hughes:

Mean, it is a substantial number. I mean in places you're talking 50%, 60%, 70%. In this county in Nevada I was visiting, every single person who worked the 2020 election has quit, four years later.

Taylor Wilson:

So how big of an issue is this, Trevor, that we have a voting system with this much worker turnover? What are the consequences here?

Trevor Hughes:

Well, it's important to note that every expert I talked to said they are confident that our elections are more secure today than they ever have been in history. But the concern, of course, is that you've lost so much institutional knowledge that these little things can trip you up.

We actually saw that in Nevada. We had a situation where the state's database was getting erroneous information from 12 different counties. They couldn't figure it out. In the end, the woman who solved it, she was from a county with 4,000 residents, but she's been there 20 years, one of the few clerks still around who remembers that one little thing they had to do to make it work.

Taylor Wilson:

Trevor, are there any solutions in place to cut down on such high turnover and also just to improve conditions for both workers and voters?

Trevor Hughes:

Well, every person I talked to said it's important that Americans who believe in our elections say thank you, say, "We appreciate your work." That's the first part.

The second part is, the workers are dealing with post-pandemic stress, they're dealing with all kinds of issues. So there really isn't one simple solution to making this better other than confidence-building, experience and giving people grace.

Taylor Wilson:

All right, Trevor Hughes is the national correspondent for USA Today. Thank you, Trevor.

Trevor Hughes:

You bet.

Taylor Wilson:

Florida Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo is under fire for his handling of a measles outbreak at an elementary school. He told parents of unvaccinated children that it's their choice whether their students attend class. That goes against federal guidelines calling for their mandatory exclusion. He was previously known for being skeptical about the Covid-19 vaccine. Two Florida children contracted measles since Ladapo's decision bringing total reported infections to eight, though it's not clear if the latest cases are connected to the school outbreak. Measles can come with serious risk. The CDC says that around one in five children who become ill end up in the hospital. The preventable disease is resurging globally and in the U.S., where Florida is one of 11 states that have seen cases this year.

Flaco, the celebrated thirteen-year-old Eurasian eagle owl from New York City has died, the likely cause a building collision. Flaco rose to internet fame following his unlikely escape from the Central Park Zoo last February. Although zoo staff made several attempts to recapture him, a grassroots movement took off among the birding community to let Flaco stay wild and it flourished online while zoo staff quickly abandoned their attempts to recapture him.

Celebrity birds are nothing new but Flaco's hard-fought freedom struck a chord with New Yorkers, and his renegade status was celebrated by the press both near and far, attracting visitors from all over the world. Following his untimely death, tributes have been pouring in and a memorial was set up at one of his favorite trees.

It's impossible to sum up the impact Flaco's death has had on his many fans, but this tweet by wildlife photographer, David Lei, comes as close as any. Lei wrote, quote, "Flaco spent his first 13 years primarily living for the benefit of people. As much as his story of survival and adaptation touched all of us, he was finally able to live for his own benefit in the past year." Our thanks to David for sharing his recording of Flaco's hoots with us.

Thanks for listening to The Excerpt. You can get the podcast wherever you get your audio, and if you're on a smart speaker, just ask for The Excerpt.I'm Taylor Wilson back tomorrow with more of The Excerpt from USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The Excerpt podcast: Nikki Haley still running after loss in SC