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Nikki Haley, campaigning, Adel, Iowa
Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley suspended her presidential campaign on March 6, 2024. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

In the Pennsylvania primary, suburban Republicans voted in droves for Nikki Haley, who suspended her campaign seven weeks ago. That could foreshadow a real problem for Trump in November.

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In January, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley received 19 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses. On Tuesday, she earned a bit more than 16 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary.

While those numbers are similar, there are some major differences. In January, she was actively seeking the Republican nomination for president. When Pennsylvania voters headed to the polls yesterday, she had already suspended her campaign for about seven weeks.

And while his victory in Iowa put Donald Trump on a path to easily secure the Republican nomination, the results of Pennsylvania’s primary cast serious doubts on his ability to win the Keystone State in November. 

While the media loves to focus on early polls, which are all essentially meaningless, yesterday’s vote totals may be a much better predictor of how the voters of each party feel about their candidates.

And it doesn’t look great for Trump. 

About 1 million voters of each party (with Democrats holding a slight edge) cast a ballot in this closed primary (meaning that you have to be registered as a Republican to vote in the GOP primary and as a Democrat in the Democratic primary). 

While Trump only managed to get 83 percent of the votes, President Joe Biden received 93 percent. 

Now, the widely accepted narrative is that Trump’s base is much more solidly in the former president’s corner than Biden’s in his.

And that’s certainly true for the hard-core supporters. The MAGA cult has millions of members who would throw themselves into a volcano for their hero. Most Democrats, on the other hand, might go as far as extinguishing a candle with their fingers for Biden.

But here is the thing: The vote of a Republican-leaning suburban woman who is disgusted by Trump counts just as much as that of the rabid MAGA supporter. 

That is a real problem for the former president because he certainly won’t (or can’t) change who he is to appease somewhat conservative soccer moms. 

And that might cost him with suburban voters in key states like Pennsylvania. 

Tuesday’s results tell a distinct story.

With about 90 percent of the vote counted, in the four counties (Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, and Bucks) surrounding Philadelphia, 41,764 voters took it upon themselves to participate in a primary that is essentially over to vote for someone who is no longer running. 

Let that sink in. 

In those four counties combined, Haley got about 23 percent of the vote. In other words, about one-quarter of suburban Republicans outside of Philadelphia showed up (or mailed in their ballots) to vote against Trump… and that in a state that he hopes to win.

Obviously, that isn’t to say that the former president can’t come out ahead in Pennsylvania, but this is a trend worth keeping an eye on that is much more reliable than polls conducted six months before the election. 

Author

  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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