Nikki Haley is on a roll in the primaries despite dropping out. Is it a red flag for Trump?

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WASHINGTON — Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley suspended her presidential campaign in March, but she’s still going strong in the Republican primaries as she racks up a notable share of votes against Donald Trump, spelling a warning sign for the former president, experts say.

On Tuesday, Haley received 20% of the vote in Maryland, 17.9% in Nebraska and 9.4% in West Virginia. In the Indiana primary last week, Haley garnered 21.7% of the vote. While Trump handily won the states, receiving 80.2% of the vote in Nebraska, 80% in Maryland, 88.4% in West Virginia and 78.3% in Indiana, Haley's sizable tally indicates Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, still may face persistent opposition within his own party.

Haley built a broad coalition of voters, including moderate and anti-Trump Republicans, during her presidential run that cut into the former president’s commanding lead in the primary polls.

As her now “zombie campaign” continues to receive support, Trump could be in danger if he doesn’t make an effort to reach out to the dissatisfied group in his GOP base who could reject him come the general election, political scientists and strategists said. Especially in a race where a handful of swing states could be decided by tens of thousands of votes or less.

“Haley continuing to garner support after suspending her campaign may indicate that a significant number of normally loyal Republicans are not supportive of Trump,” said Grant Reeher, professor of political science at Syracuse University.

“Whether that means they will vote for Biden or another candidate in the general election is, again, hard to say, but it could indicate that some of them may not vote, given the options.  And this election is expected to be close, so even a small drop-off could hurt Trump, especially in the battleground states,”  he added.

How much danger is Trump in?

Numerous polls show that Trump is leading Biden in key battleground states.

A recent New York Times/Siena College/The Philadelphia Inquirer poll conducted between April 28 and May 9 found Biden trailing Trump among registered voters in a head-to-head matchup by seven points in Arizona, 10 points in Georgia, seven points in Michigan, 12 points in Nevada and three points in Pennsylvania. The only state where Biden led Trump was Wisconsin by two points.

But getting a substantial amount of Haley voters to back him could help close the gap for Biden in the general election, especially in metro and suburban areas where their vote has been particularly strong, said Wesley Leckrone, a political science expert at Widener University.

“Should some of these voters support Biden in the fall it could make a difference in swing states,” he said.

For instance, Haley received 25% of the vote in Chester County, Pennsylvania, which Biden won in 2020, a month after she suspended her campaign. She also received 23% of the vote in Cobb County, Georgia, which Biden also won.

“I think much of the discontent among anti-Trump Republicans is more about his style of politics and personality. Views on Trump are pretty hardened at this point and he continues to use the same campaign style,” Leckrone said. “It's unlikely that will change in the coming months. Perhaps his choice of a vice president candidate could help bring moderates back into the fold, but it's unlikely.”

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who served as a Trump White House and campaign surrogate for the 2020 election, said he thinks the biggest concern for Trump is to make sure irregular and infrequent voters who favor him turn out in battleground states rather than appealing to Haley voters.

“The best use of your time and resources is dedicating it to a ballot turnout operation in the six states that are going to decide this election. You know, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan Wisconsin, Pennsylvania,” he said.

Can Biden win these Haley voters over?

Whether Haley voters will choose Biden in the general election or a third-party candidate is also up in the air.

Biden has lost support from key groups, including young voters, Black voters and Hispanic voters, on issues such as his handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict and the economy.

The New York Times/Siena poll found that over 50% of survey respondents in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania rate current economic conditions as poor. The poll also found that only 28% of respondents ages 18 to 29 trust Biden to handle the broader Israel-Palestinian conflict, while 52% trust Trump.

Aaron Kall, a politics expert at the University of Michigan, said it’s up to Biden to make earning Haley voters a part of his winning strategy in the general election.

“If there's a ceasefire or something like that, then that could help him on the issue of what's happening in the Middle East or if inflation declines a little bit more to where the Fed reduces interest rates, then those are things that could bring those voters kind of closer to home with him,” Kall said. “But it's definitely a positive just the fact that these voters are in play, and that they don't seem likely to support Trump.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nikki Haley is still racking up GOP primary votes. Should Trump worry?