COLUMBIA, S.C. – Democratic Party officials have a clear message to their voters: Don’t skip Saturday’s presidential primary in South Carolina, and instead cast a ballot for Nikki Haley three weeks later in the Palmetto State’s Republican nominating contest.
“Nikki, just understand that South Carolina Democrats are not going to vote for you. I want you to get that message loud and clear this morning,” Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison told reporters as the polls opened in his home state.
On Saturday morning, as polls opened in South Carolina, there were reports that some Democrats received text messages urging them to forgo voting on Saturday and instead cast a ballot in three weeks. Both the Haley campaign and SFA Fund, an aligned super PAC, denied having any involvement with the text messages.
Haley, a former two-term South Carolina governor who later served as U.N. ambassador in former President Donald Trump’s administration, scored plenty of support from independent voters and even some crossover Democrats in last month’s Iowa Republican caucuses and New Hampshire GOP primary, which were the first two contests in the Republican Party’s presidential nominating calendar.
Haley, the last remaining major rival to commanding front-runner Trump, grabbed 43% of the vote a week and a half ago in New Hampshire.
The next key contest in the GOP calendar is South Carolina’s Republican primary on February 24. The latest public opinion survey in the state indicates Trump holding a 26-point lead over Haley.
While the GOP primary is open to all voters regardless of party preference, people who cast a ballot in Saturday’s Democratic primary are not allowed to vote again in three weeks in the Republican contest.
Democratic Party officials for weeks have been spotlighting to South Carolina voters Haley’s conservative policies during her tenure as governor and calling her the “mother of the MAGA movement.”
Harrison said his message to Haley is that “we are not going to vote for you because you didn’t do anything for us. You didn’t do anything for us. So, we’re not bailing you out. We’ve got two MAGA apples in this field that’s left, and both of them are rotten. And so, Democrats in South Carolina aren’t bailing either one of them out.”
Haley and her campaign for months have argued she would be a stronger GOP nominee than Trump to face off in November’s general election with President Biden.
Asked for a response to Harrison’s comments, Haley’s campaign told Fox News that “nothing would make Democrats happier than Donald Trump being the Republican nominee. Poll after poll shows Nikki trounces Biden. They know they can’t beat her.”
Biden’s landslide victory in the South Carolina primary four years ago boosted him towards the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and ultimately the White House.
And he’s expected to win big again this time around, against his two long-shot primary challengers, Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and Marianne Williamson, the best-selling author and spiritual adviser who’s making her second straight White House run.
Both Phillips and Williamson campaigned heavily last month in New Hampshire’s unsanctioned Democratic presidential primary, which Biden easily won as a write-in candidate.
But Phillips hasn’t set foot in South Carolina in a week, and Williamson skipped any recent in-person campaigning in the Palmetto State.
“We would have expected more from the candidates who filed to be on the ballot. We encourage them to come into the state. They were welcome to come in. It was open for them. Our county parties were waiting,” South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Christale Spain told Fox Digital.
She emphasized, “It was disappointing to see that candidates filed, but did not really come here to compete in the way they did in New Hampshire.”
Biden made multiple campaign stops in South Carolina last weekend and Vice President Kamala Harris headlined a rally on Friday, on the eve of the primary.
Even though he wasn’t on the ballot in New Hampshire, the president grabbed 64% of the vote in the Democratic primary, thanks to a well organized and funded write-in effort.
When asked where Biden needs to finish in South Carolina’s primary to consider it a success, Harrison demurred.
But he told Fox News Digital that Biden was already a winner, especially with Black voters who play an outsized role in South Carolina Democratic politics.
“The president wanted to send a signal to Black folks, not only here in South Carolina, but across the nation, that we see you, we hear you, and you matter,” Harrison stressed. “That is why it’s important for the president and the vice president and the first lady and the second gentleman to come into a state and to show up, even when they know that they’re going to win. And that they’re going to win decisively. They are saying to folks that you matter.”