Donald Trump defeats Nikki Haley in South Carolina Republican primary


Image caption: Trump said it had been a “fantastic evening” after the projections came in straight away

It was a defeat that had been telegraphed by polls for weeks, but for Nikki Haley it still has to sting.

When she announced her presidential bid in Charleston a year ago, one of her touted strengths was that she had never lost an election in South Carolina – even when she faced the longest of odds.

The odds were definitely against her in the South Carolina primary, but in this case there would be no surprise victory. There wasn’t even a narrow defeat.

South Carolina is now Trump country – like every state so far and, in all likelihood, every to come.

The former governor has promised to soldier on. If she keeps getting 40% of the vote, she will pick up more delegates in the slate of Super Tuesday states that vote in early March.

But the returns from her campaign are diminishing toward zero. By mid-March, Trump may have enough delegates to guarantee he wins the nomination

Then the question becomes what she does next.

Does she endorse the man she described over the last few weeks as reckless and unhinged? She wouldn’t be the first Trump critic to execute such a heel-turn. But she may be betting that in November Trump will falter – and she will be positioned to forge a new path for the party.

No Republican has managed to do so yet. But, for better or worse, Haley doesn’t seem to shy away from a long-shot.

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