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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024
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SC primary voters cast a shadow over Georgia’s March 12 primary

<p>Dean and Lisa Widener, Columbia, SC voters and politicians, pose with a &quot;VOTE&quot; sign outside a voting precinct in Richland county, South Carolina. Dean is an Air Force Veteran and an SC House candidate for the South Carolina District 85 House race happening Summer 2024.</p>

Dean and Lisa Widener, Columbia, SC voters and politicians, pose with a "VOTE" sign outside a voting precinct in Richland county, South Carolina. Dean is an Air Force Veteran and an SC House candidate for the South Carolina District 85 House race happening Summer 2024.

With the South Carolina primaries now concluded, Georgia voters are cornered in a manner many have feared. A nationwide poll from Reuters last month said as many as 67% of respondents were “tired of seeing the same candidates in presidential elections and want someone new." 

While Nikki Haley was counting on winning “her sweet state of South Carolina,” where she ended up holding about 40% of the primary vote, many voters at precincts across Columbia were far from optimistic about her chances going into Super Tuesday on March 5.

“What that tells me is that at least 40% of people don’t want Donald Trump,” Haley said at her victory party speech Saturday night, citing her similar results in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

But Haley supporters and friends are not quite optimistic, which casts a shadow in many voters' minds heading into Super Tuesday. Georgians are also looking to South Carolina and preceding states to see how they should vote, or if they should vote at all.

Lisa Widener, who was helping her husband, Dean Widener, run for SC House Seat 85 in South Carolina’s June elections, said she hoped Trump would win, and that Haley should “get out of his way.”

“A lot of people don't know her like we did. She was a great governor. But, I just don't think it's her time right now,” Weidner said.

Many voters were counting on Trump’s potential next four years to be a carbon copy of his last four should he return to the White House in January of 2025. Pollers who voted for Trump were more vocal about their choice, like a woman named Hilda, who declined to give her last name, but was extremely outspoken in comparison to her husband, David.

“We want Donald Trump,” Hilda said. “Nikki Haley should drop out. She’s trash.”

Unlike many states, voters in South Carolina can vote in either presidential preference primary, and with only 131,000 voters (about 4% of SC’s voter base) showing up to vote Feb. 3, there is a potential for a large moderate turnout in SC’s results.

“We are citizen[s], who [are] concerned about our situation at this stage of the game,” David said. “This is our privilege to choose the government, that is the reason we’re here. Nothing is sure, at this stage of our political system, we need to take care and do the best that we can to the best of our abilities, nothing is sure.”

Dean Widener said that while he was nervous about Trump’s powerful hold over his voter base, the knowledge of his previous accomplishments from the presidency following the 2016 election overrode some of his fears.

“I remember when he ran for office the very first time, and he made the comedy, he goes, I could shoot somebody in the middle of the street and they'd still vote for him. And you were like, okay, man, that's a little much. But then I'm going, whoa, that's about right,” he said.

Despite an expectation of Republican concern with Trump’s indictments and current behavior, many are certain he still has the best chance against the current frontrunner in the Democratic primary: incumbent President Joe Biden.

Robin Gable, a Columbia resident, said it was important for her to vote because she can’t “afford” another four years under Joe Biden, citing rising costs of living across the nation as the primary reason she’s voting for Trump.

“Nikki Haley was really great with us, for the state of South Carolina when she was governor, she was really good for us, but I just have this feeling that we need to go for Trump. We know what he can do, and we know other countries respect him, and they don’t respect our president right now,” Gable said.

For democrat voters, who were slated to vote in South Carolina’s “first in the nation” democratic primary earlier this month, SC’s traditionally open primaries present a question for Democrats, moderates and independents: where does my vote matter more?

Emily, who declined to giver her last name, said she is a Democrat, but she voted for Nikki Haley in the primary.

“I was thinking of it as a protest vote against Donald Trump,” she said. “Because South Carolina is an open primary state and I can vote in either, I felt like Biden was sort of a foregone conclusion, which is why I flipped over to vote in the Republican primary.”

Despite this, Emily is not considering flipping her vote to vote Republican in the general election. 

Division within the Republican party and dissatisfaction with existing party candidates are foreshadowing Georgia's March 12 primary. As eyes turn to the peach state, voters like Lisa and Dean Widener urge everyone to “go vote in all primaries to make yourself heard, because there's a lot of candidates that you're picking to narrow it down to one,” Widener said. 

Henry Keating

Henry Keating '24 is a Journalism and History student at Mercer. He has worked at The Cluster as SGA correspondent, State and Local News Editor, Managing Editor and now as the Editor-in-Chief. Henry has held internships at the Macon Newsroom, Macon Telegraph, and Greenville Post and Courier. He enjoys backpacking, rom-coms, pottery and photography.

Eliza Moore

Eliza Moore ‘24 is an English and Journalism student at Mercer University. She is now in her second year working as The Cluster’s News Editor after a semester abroad. She is currently producing work for Macon Magazine and Georgia Public Broadcasting in addition to her work with The Cluster. She loves breakfasts, the ocean, and all things related to writing.

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