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Analysis: How South Carolina can help Trump make history

The Republican primary in South Carolina is usually the most important contest of the nominating season. The state's propensity to choose the eventual Republican Party nominee is unmatched by any other state with early voting. Since 1980, the only Republican to win the nomination without winning South Carolina was Mitt Romney in 2012.

This year, if history holds true, it could mean the beginning of the end for Nikki Haley's campaign.

Leading Republican candidate Donald Trump is dominating the polls. The former president led all polls in the state by at least 20 points this year. Polls that meet CNN's publishing standards have Trump up by at least 30 points this month.

To put this in perspective, I can't find a single example of a well-voted presidential primary in the last 40 years in which a candidate overcame the deficit that Nikki Haley currently faces in her own home state.

Democrat Bernie Sanders' victory in the 2016 Michigan primary was the biggest recent shock. Polls approved by CNN predicted a defeat by around 20 points before the election.

Another ominous sign for Nikki Haley: Since the modern primary era began in 1972, no major party candidate has lost their home state during primary season. To this point, Trump has shown a knack for defeating fellow Republicans in the states where they were first elected.

You may remember that Trump defeated Marco Rubio in the Florida primaries in 2016, which led to the senator dropping out of the race. We'll see if Haley ends up doing the same, even though she's indicated otherwise.

Polls released this week by Marquette University Law School and Quinnipiac University show that Haley lost to Trump by about 60 points on average nationwide.

Haley's data matches a historical pattern. Candidates generally outperform in their home states during the primary calendar. Candidates like Ted Cruz (Texas), John Kasich (Ohio) and Sanders (Vermont) won their home state primaries in 2016 or 2020 or both, but didn't come very close to becoming their party's nominee.

So the picture would likely only get more dire for Haley after the vote in her home state.

Still, even if Trump wins this Saturday's primaries (24), as all polls indicate, there are some questions regarding his scale of victory.

In 2016, Trump lost two counties on his way to winning the South Carolina primary: Charleston and Richland. A Trump sweep of both counties this time would likely mean he would walk away with all of the state's delegates. South Carolina Republicans award 29 delegates to the statewide winner, as well as three delegates to each winner of the state's seven congressional districts.

Winning both counties would also indicate that any last resistance to Trump within the Republican electorate is fading. Both counties have relatively high levels of college graduates, who have historically been the most hostile to the former president in GOP primaries.

Trump vastly underperformed among college graduates at the Iowa GOP caucuses last month and lost them completely to Haley in the New Hampshire primary. He was beaten by Haley among those with advanced degrees, e.g., master's degrees, in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Polls from both Marquette and Quinnipiac have Trump at 60% of the vote or higher among college graduates in the Republican primary (or white college graduates in the Republican primary, in the case of Quinnipiac). .

In fact, if the polls are right about Trump, we'll be left with one big question: Will he lose anything during the primaries?

Utah and Washington, D.C., are the two places with primaries or caucuses before Super Tuesday where Trump performed the weakest in 2016. He won 14% of the vote in both places.

Victories there next month would virtually guarantee Trump a milestone that no other non-incumbent Republican has achieved in the modern era of presidential primaries: winning every contest. This would leave little doubt that Trump is the heart of the Republican Party.

Source: CNN Brasil

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