Nikki Haley notches first win in bid for GOP presidential nomination, upsets Trump in DC primary

WASHINGTON – Nikki Haley defeated Donald Trump in Sunday's Republican primary in Washington, D.C., her first win in what remains an uphill battle to somehow overtake the former president for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, claimed all 19 convention delegates and carried more than 62% of the vote among the small pool of district Republicans who participated in the three-day primary. She now takes her challenge to Trump to more than a dozen primaries being held on "Super Tuesday" – Trump is favored to win those contests, but the surprising result in Washington could augur better days for her campaign.

"Let’s do it," Haley said on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter. "Thank you, DC! We fight for every inch."

In another post, Haley said "Republicans closest to Washington’s dysfunction know that Donald Trump has brought nothing but chaos and division for the past 8 years. It's time to start winning again and move our nation forward!"

Haley spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said: "It’s not surprising that Republicans closest to Washington dysfunction are rejecting Donald Trump and all his chaos." She added that the victory "makes Nikki Haley the first woman to win a Republican primary in U.S. history."

On his Truth Social website, Trump said he "purposely stayed away from the district vote because it is the 'Swamp,'" and inconsequential. "The really big numbers will come on Super Tuesday," Trump said.

The Trump campaign earlier mocked Haley's victory in Washington, D.C., which they again called a "swamp" of political vice.

"While Nikki has been soundly rejected throughout the rest of America, she was just crowned Queen of the Swamp by the lobbyists and DC insiders that want to protect the failed status quo," said a statement from Trump campaign press secretary Karoline Leavitt, adding: "The swamp has claimed their queen."

Approaching Super Tuesday

The Republican footprint in Washington, D.C., is very small. Just a little more than 2,000 people voted in the GOP primary in a city with a population of nearly 680,000.

Trump had defeated Haley in previous contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and her home state of South Carolina.

Republican strategist Doug Heye said Trump backers can complain about "the swamp" all they want, "but a whole lot of people who worked for Trump – who know him and his administration best – rejected him."

District Republicans send only 19 of 2,429 delegates to their national convention from July 15 to 18 in Milwaukee.

Trump began the day with 244 delegates to Haley’s 24, according to The Associated Press. The former president needs 1,215 delegates to clinch the nomination, and 845 delegates will be available on Super Tuesday.

While the Republican presence in Washington, D.C., is very small, the caucuses drew some attention because of alleged threats by the Trump campaign to a particular group of voters: Lobbyists.

Politico reported that Trump officials warned lobbyists that “if they don’t vote in this Sunday’s primary, they won’t get access should the former president end up back in the White House.”

Haley, whose donors have been threatened with ostracism by the Trump machine, protested the heavy-handed tactics a day before her victory in the nation's capital.

This election "is about candidates wanting people to come into their fold, not threatening them, not pushing them out of their club," Haley told reporters Saturday. "Is that what we want as a leader? The majority of these people will tell you no, they’re done with that."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Super Tuesday warm-up: Nikki Haley wins Republican primary in D.C.