What to anticipate from the Republican primary election in South Carolina, according to the Associated Press Decision Notes

in Washington, DC — South Carolina's first-in-the-South Republican presidential primary is this coming Saturday. It will be the first head-to-head contest for the final two major contenders since the New Hampshire primary a month ago, pitting Donald Trump against Nikki Haley.

The competition is held in the territory that Haley calls home. She served as the governor of South Carolina for a period of six years until resigning in 2017 to take a position as the United Nations ambassador following the election of Donald Trump as president.

Haley is facing tremendous headwinds in a state where Trump has the support of the majority of the party establishment, has held a considerable lead in recent polls, and has high popularity among the conservative base. Despite her experience, Haley is facing these headwinds.

Trump mocks Haley and downplays her Cabinet duties. Haley has increasingly questioned Trump's fitness for office, most notably condemning his Russia and NATO statements. It contrasts with earlier in the campaign when she and other GOP candidates avoided attacking Trump.

The South Carolina primary frequently predicts the Republican presidential nominee. Since the current state primary started in 1980, all but one GOP primary winner has won the party nomination. Newt Gingrich was the only exception in 2012.

Any registered voter in South Carolina can vote in any party's primary. One party's presidential primary is allowed, therefore Feb. 3 Democratic primary voters cannot vote in the Republican primary.

The majority of the electorate, including Democrats and independents who support Haley over Trump but did not vote in the last campaign, had the opportunity to cast their ballots in the Republican race, since only around 4% of registered voters participated in the Democratic contest.

The winner of the statewide vote receives 29 of 50 delegates. A vote in each of the state's seven congressional districts will determine 21 delegates. Each district's highest vote-getter gets three delegates.

Haley last won a difficult GOP primary in South Carolina in 2010, when she easily won a four-way primary runoff. Six years later, Trump won a heated six-way primary in the state to become president and Republican party leader.

Since Trump and Haley last competed against other Republican contenders in South Carolina, the state's political dynamics have undergone significant changes. The outcomes of their previous elections do, however, give light on Saturday's primary.

Haley's greatest showings in the most recent tough South Carolina primary were in counties where Democrats had the highest performance in general elections, while Trump's lowest showings were in counties where they performed the poorest.

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