They Know Haley’s Chances Against Trump, but They’re Voting for Her Anyway

Everything about Nikki Haley’s latest barnstorm through South Carolina was intended to evoke a candidate on the upswing.

She had a sleek, new navy-blue campaign bus with her name on it. Her campaign, backed by a fresh infusion of funds, pumped $2 million more into ads, for a total $6 million buy. And she had fresh lines of attack to deploy against former President Donald J. Trump.

But the stops, carefully tailored to highlight her ties to the place she calls home and remind voters of her past political successes in the state, frequently served more as reminders of how much has changed here since her last winning bid for governor. Ms. Haley hosted fewer attendeesat events in some of the more conservative strongholds crucial to a victory in the Feb. 24 primary. She drew larger, enthusiastic crowds at stops near the coast and around Charleston. Almost everywhere she went, even staunch supporters excited to see her speak conceded that her chances were slim.

“I am not a fan of Donald Trump,” said Robert Zangara, 74, a retired accountant who attended her tour stop on Sunday with his wife at a strip mall in Orangeburg and plans to vote for her next week. “But I just don’t think she’s going to be the nominee.”

Nearly one year to the date since beginning her presidential campaign, Ms. Haley is still promising she will remain in the race through Super Tuesday, on March 5, regardless of the outcome in South Carolina, where she is trailing Mr. Trump by more than 30 points in polls. She has dismissed concerns that a loss would torch her path toward the nomination, or, worse, her future political prospects, even as the momentum she enjoyed before the earlier nominating contests in January has all but disappeared.

In an interview with The New York Times in Los Angeles, she argued she was willing to be “David taking on Goliath” so that her children and everyone else’s would grow up in a better country. On Fox News on Tuesday, she was even more forceful in declaring the urgency of her quest when asked if she was worried about her career should she fail to clinch victory.

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