Political pundits called her primary loss in Nevada as embarrassing as she came well behind the ‘None of these Candidates’ category at 30 per cent; and before that in Iowa and New Hampshire the losses were passed off as expected.

But after a dismal showing in her own home state of South Carolina, all but Nikki Haley have seen the writing on the wall. Haley will continue as long as she has money to pay for the lights, was apparently one murmur.

“I’m an accountant. I know 40 per cent is not 50 per cent. But I also know 40 per cent is not some tiny group,” Haley maintained. But what she could not say was that her former boss had made his presence felt and endorsed in every segment of the voting population, especially men and white voters in the rural and suburbs. And at a time when there was perceptible outrage of Donald Trump mocking Haley’s National Guardsman- husband doing a tour of duty in Africa, one exit poll showed the 45th President getting 70 percent backing from veterans.

Teflon Trump

Even before polls opened in South Carolina, Haley knew that it was a long shot as Trump was leading by around 30-36 points. In retrospect everything seems to have fallen flat: four criminal indictments; a penalty of $450 million for inflating his possessions; $80 millions plus for defaming a woman who had accused him of rape; and a hush money payoff to a porn star trial set for next month. None of these mattered including that Trump had forked out millions in legal bills thus far.

Haley would have to pay close attention to where the numbers are coming from. For instance it has been pointed out that Haley’s support in Iowa and New Hampshire came from Democrats and Independents; and Nevada was a humiliation of sorts, where Trump was not even on the ballot.

Some of the focus will be on Michigan that has a split schedule for a total of 55 delegates. The real test for Haley will come on Super Tuesday of March 5 that is seen as more difficult, not just because of geography but of the rules in voting. A good haul of delegates are in play —874 out of a total of 2,429 in 15 states and the territory of American Samoa. The problem for Haley is that many of Super Tuesday states in play are closed to Democrats and Independents.

One of the major planks of Haley has been the kind of electoral disaster Trump brings to the table, the bottom line being that while she may not score wins in primaries, Trump comes away empty handed in the bigger ones — 2018, 2020 and 2022 often cited as examples. Of late the run off in New York for the expelled George Santos from the House of Representatives has also been pinned on Trump. Both Republicans and Democrats are hanging on to razor thin majorities in the House and Senate respectively and in 2024.

For now the flow is in the direction of Trump sewing up the nomination by March 5. Candidate Trump boasted recently that even Black Americans have started backing him understanding what it means to be discriminated.

Amazing indeed for a person who hunkered down in the basement of the White House in June 2020, turning lights off, threatening to unleash vicious dogs and brutal force on “looters” protesting the brutal killing of George Floyd.

The writer is a senior journalist who has reported from Washington DC on North America and United Nations.