Nikki Haley looks ahead to Michigan and Super Tuesday after defeat to Trump in South Carolina

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Nikki Haley’s campaign for the presidency chugs along.

The former governor of South Carolina vowed to stay in the race Saturday evening after a defeat in her home state, addressing a pumped-up crowd of supporters in Charleston. Pointing to her speech earlier in the week wherein she promised to keep fighting Donald Trump through Super Tuesday and beyond, Ms Haley declared after her latest loss to Mr Trump: “I’m a woman of my word.”

Her campaign insists that there remains a path forward, not just to provide a rhetorical alternative to Mr Trump, but to win the contest outright. Polls indicate otherwise, although they notably failed to register her momentum in either South Carolina or New Hampshire, the last two competitive primary states.

Both Ms Haley and her supporters appeared to be fired up after her performance on Saturday. While the campaign obviously failed to win, with most votes counted Ms Haley remained near the 40 per cent mark — a clear loss, but a better performance than was predicted. As the governor took the stage, she made two things clear: One, she’s not leaving. And secondly, she doesn’t think Donald Trump can win a general election.

She also took aim at the Republican frontrunner for the increasingly poisonous rhetoric he uses to describe his political foes. Donald Trump, she said, drives people away from the GOP “nearly every day”.

Those statements were Ms Haley’s way of saying, “I’m serious. I’m not kissing the ring.”

And to be clear, her camp is projecting confidence. A source with knowledge of her super PAC’s strategies spoke with reporters Saturday evening after votes came in and told The Independent that Ms Haley had clearly secured a mandate to continue fighting Donald Trump for the nomination. Voters, Ms Haley said, deserved a real alternative, not a “Soviet-style” single-candidate race.

“She did probably about two or three points better here with Republicans than she did in New Hampshire,” they said. Of Ms Haley’s performance tonight compared to the expectations set by the Trump campaign, they said, “I feel great about it.”

“Vermont, Utah, Virginia. I think there are states that, if you look at demographically, she has a chance to win.”

That source went on to predict an “interesting” week or two ahead for the Haley campaign as her team and its allied network seek to capitalise on the momentum they claimed to have after Saturday’s results.

Her rank-and-file supporters who crowded into the Charleston Place’s grand ballroom on Saturday agreed. They were thrilled to hear Ms Haley declare that she was remaining in the race; another revealing moment came when a CNN commentator, his audio projected across the ballroom, declared that Ms Haley could and likely should remain in the race “as long as she can keep the lights on” — a moment that drew one of the loudest cheers of the night from the assembled guests.

Jim Myrick, one of Ms Haley’s supporters in the room, told The Independent after Ms Haley’s speech that the former governor was standing up to prevent the “chaos” of a second Trump term.

“There are too many people who are saying yes to a man who [says], “I’ll broach no controversy, I’ll allow no dissent,” said Mr Myrick. “I hope I’m exaggerating when I say it could be an existential threat to the American presidency. I think we’re looking at somebody who said that he’s gonna be an authoritarian, and said he’s gonna take vengeance on people.”

He also suggested that Ms Haley’s wealthy donors were not likely to be scared off, as long as she retains some momentum and projects herself as a reasonable second option.

“A lot of big money sponsors recognize her rationality and her ability to be the adult in the room,” he said.

Others who had gotten to know Ms Haley and her campaign spoke in equally glowing terms. One man who recounted attending the former governor’s rally in Buford relayed a surprising anecdote: Ms Haley’s son Nalin, now famous for his elbow-drop burn aimed at Tim Scott, had without being asked helped to carry lawn chairs for a World War II veteran and his wife after the event, helping them to their car even as the entire Haley campaign bus awaited his return.

He added that he faulted the Trump-aligned faction of the GOP for not extending olive branches to independents and conservative Democrats, instead driving them away from the party.

“You cannot win national elections with just [Republicans],” Daniel Sulka said.

That’s Ms Haley’s message to Republicans going forward: If you want to remain comfortable, vote for Donald Trump. But if you want to beat Joe Biden, there’s only one choice remaining.

Whether she actually convinces the GOP voting base remains an open question. It does appear that she has already successfully convinced the party’s moneyed elite of that, however.

Her campaign has shown no signs of slowing down in terms of raising money. She announced a $1m haul after a two-event swing of Texas earlier this month, and is making her staying power a selling point going forward.