The next state on the Republican presidential primary schedule where former President Donald Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will compete on the same ballot is Haley’s home state of South Carolina.

But the former two-term governor has a long way to go before the Feb. 24 primary if she wants to beat the expectations she set on Sunday — telling NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that “I don’t think it necessarily has to be a win, but it certainly has to be better than what I did in New Hampshire, and it certainly has to be close.”

A new Monmouth University-Washington Post poll has Trump leading her 58% to 32% among potential GOP primary voters. Haley lost the New Hampshire primary last month by around 11 percentage points.

What You Need To Know

  • The next state on the Republican presidential primary schedule where former President Donald Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will compete against each other is Haley’s home state of South Carolina
  • Haley told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday that “I don’t think it necessarily has to be a win, but it certainly has to be better than what I did in New Hampshire, and it certainly has to be close.” 
  • South Carolina's Republican primary is Feb. 24

“I’m not going anywhere,” Haley said on CNN on Thursday. “In South Carolina, we’re going to close that gap. My goal is to be more competitive in South Carolina.”

“We have a country to save. I’m not going anywhere because I don’t want my kids to live like this,” she added, making the case Trump brings too much chaos to properly run the country.

The Monmouth poll released Thursday is in line with other recent public polling in the state. Trump has led Haley by north of 25% in polls since before she joined the race. FiveThirtyEight’s polling average has Trump up by 30 percentage points.

“After defying predictions in New Hampshire, Haley will spend the next 23 days campaigning across the Palmetto State,” Haley spokesperson Brittany Yanick said in a statement on Thursday. “Good luck to Donald Trump if he tries to lie about Nikki’s record. South Carolinians aren’t buying it.”

But polling data largely suggests South Carolinians are buying what Trump’s selling. A sizable majority back his campaign, while just a third back Haley's, according to the Monmouth survey. And 62% of possible Republican primary voters say they would vote for Trump in November if he was convicted of a crime in one of his four criminal trials between now and then. Over 70% believe Trump would definitely or probably beat President Joe Biden in the general election.

“Trump’s electability is a concern for some primary voters. It’s just that this group is nowhere near large enough to put Haley in striking distance of the front-runner,” Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth University’s polling institute, said in a statement. “Another problem for Haley is that even a close second-place finish may not provide much momentum because of South Carolina’s winner-take-all delegate allocation rule.”

“Our poll currently shows Trump statistically ahead in five congressional districts and holding nominal leads in the other two. A Trump sweep of all 50 delegates is possible even if Haley can make it a tighter race,” Murray added. Trump leads Haley in Republican National Convention delegates 32 to 17. To win the GOP nomination, a candidate needs 1,215 delegates.

As polls did in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Monmouth poll also suggests Trump supporters are far more enthusiastic than Haley’s in her home state: 73% of his backers said they were “extremely motivated,” while just 45% of hers said the same. And just 45% of her South Carolinians hold a favorable view of her, compared to 41% unfavorable.

"Polls continue to show the more voters get to know who the real Nikki Haley is, the more they despise her,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement on Thursday. “When Haley is losing the state by close to 30 points in some polls, not even her own former constituents want her near the nomination because she simply doesn't have what it takes to beat Crooked Joe Biden."

Haley’s campaign has expressed the belief that South Carolina’s open primary — all voters can choose to participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary — and other similar primary systems later in the calendar will benefit her, as it seemed to do in New Hampshire. In a memo last month, Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney wrote such contests would be “significant fertile ground for Nikki.”

But South Carolina has less of a history of independents and Democrats crossing party lines, and the Monmouth poll recorded just 55% support among the respondents who have voted in both primaries since 2016. Squeaking out a victory in that small of a cohort — around 20% of those polled — is unlikely to be enough to overtake Trump’s 43 percentage point advantage among the 60% of respondents who have only voted in Republican primaries since 2016, Murray said. A high turnout when Democrats vote on Saturday would limit the pool of voters she could entice to support her.

The Monmouth poll data was based on 815 voter responses from a group that said it was more likely than not they would vote in the upcoming GOP primary. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Other recent polling has suggested Haley would do better in a general election matchup with Biden, including in key swing states — an argument she has made down the stretch. But she may be running out of time.

Nevada has both a primary and caucuses for Republicans next week, but Trump and Haley won’t be competing in the same races. Trump is facing a single gadfly candidate in the Feb. 8 caucuses, while Haley will be the lone major candidate still running in the Feb. 6 primary. But only the caucuses’ results will assign the state’s 26 delegates, meaning Trump will almost certainly walk away with all of them. The U.S. Virgin Islands’ GOP caucuses are also on Feb. 8, with four delegates at stake.

“Then we go to a place that’s been very good to me, and I’ve been very good to them, South Carolina,” Trump said after meeting with Teamsters leadership in Washington on Wednesday. “I think we’ll do great there.”