The real reason Haley is headed for the nomination is virtually impossible

By | February 25, 2024

Nikki Haley‘s campaign manager told reporters on the eve of the South Carolina primary that Haley would continue her campaign “until our door closes.”

But when it comes to the delegates’ math, it’s already closed.

Haley made a big deal Saturday night about winning nearly 40 percent of the vote in South Carolina, but it only gave her 16 percent of the delegates. Former President Donald Trump‘s victory in the first four states on the Republican calendar gave him at least 106 delegates, to Haley’s 17. (Final results from South Carolina are still coming in, with the final six delegates not yet assigned.)

Over the next few matches, the delegates are about to pile up quickly, and there’s no sign that Haley will survive the avalanche. Even in a best-case scenario that stretches the limits of Haley’s appeal so far, based on current polling and the rules for delegate allocation in each state, Trump would end Super Tuesday on March 5 with 894 delegates. Haley would only have 207.

And that’s being generous to Haley.

Although only about 6 percent of all available delegates have been awarded so far, the primaries in the month of March alone account for 65 percent of the delegates. And the rules are structured in such a way that Haley — who is already polling by wide margins in many of the emerging states — will likely get an even smaller share of delegates than she does next month.

Of the first three contests she entered, Haley won about 38 percent of the vote – and 16 percent of the delegates.

Many of the emerging states have rules that allow the victor to get all the delegates if they win a majority of votes. Trump will probably get all the delegates in all cases. (And starting March 19, most states will move to a true winner-takes-all system, so as long as Trump wins a majority, he would sweep away all the delegates.)

Trump’s allies have come up with some of those rules, such as in California, the biggest prize of the entire primary. They pushed for the rule that would prompt the state to move to a winner-takes-all system if a candidate receives a majority of votes. It’s a smart move if you believe the field would consolidate enough for Trump to win by more than 50 percent, which has proven to be correct so far.

Trump is a close shot at getting all of California’s 169 delegates: He led Haley, 64 percent to 17 percent, in a Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week.

And he’ll clean up delegates in the rest of the country through Super Tuesday, too, even in this generous state-by-state scenario for Haley. Let’s try it out and give her all the plausible benefits:

Suppose Haley actually wins her first state during the Michigan primary on Tuesday and gets a majority of the delegates awarded, seven out of thirteen. But the bulk of Michigan’s delegates, 39, will actually be awarded next weekend at a state convention, where Trump is expected to romp with party insiders.

Let’s also assume that Haley clears voters in the District of Columbia (where nine delegates are up for grabs) and American Samoa (four) — two contests that are too small to reliably poll.

And suppose Haley also wins delegates from Utah (40) and Virginia (48), which we divide evenly between the two candidates since their Republican electorates have historically been skeptical of Trump. But to be clear, there are similar majority thresholds out there that could give the winner – most likely Trump – most or all of the delegates.

But even under the most charitable hypothesis for Haley, Trump will still almost certainly win all the delegates from the Super Tuesday states of Alabama (50), Arkansas (40), California (169), Maine (20), Massachusetts (40)) capture. , Oklahoma (43) and Vermont (17) – all of which become winners once a candidate reaches a majority. He will also win all of Tennessee’s delegates (58) if he gets two-thirds of the votes there, which is likely.

Texas (161) has the same majority threshold for its statewide delegates, although it also awards delegates for each of its 38 congressional districts. For this purpose, we allocated two-thirds of the district delegates to Trump and one-third to Haley, although the former president will likely win more than that.

Alaska (29), Colorado (37), Minnesota (39), and North Carolina (74) are proportional, using a rough 60-40 Trump-Haley split to distribute those delegates — again, probably generous to Haley overall , but that’s comparable to what she received in New Hampshire (the state with the friendliest electorate yet) and South Carolina (her home state) — they’ll deliver Haley dozens of delegates even if she loses by more than that.

Within two weeks of Super Tuesday, the harsh reality sets in for Haley, who has additional contests that would likely push Trump over the finish line.

There are 170 delegates at stake over a three-day period in mid-March, with another 350 up for grabs on March 19 – by which time Trump will most likely have clinched the nomination.

Haley promised to continue her campaign on Saturday night, and if she is still an active candidate on Super Tuesday, she will earn delegates. Just not that much. And it won’t do much to get her even close to the nomination.

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