Off to Michigan, Haley is Staying in the Race Despite Trump's Easy Primary Win in South Carolina

TROY, Mich. (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley says it's not "the end of our story" despite Donald Trump's easy primary victory in South Carolina, her home state where the onetime governor had long suggested her competitiveness with the former president would show.

Defying calls from South Carolina Republicans to exit the race, Haley traveled Sunday to Michigan, which holds its primary on Tuesday, speaking to a hotel ballroom packed with hundreds of supporters.

In the less than 24 hours following her Saturday night loss to Trump, Haley's campaign said that she had raised $1 million "from grassroots supporters alone," a bump they argued "demonstrates Haley's staying power and her appeal to broad swaths of the American public."

But with Sunday also came the end of support for Haley's campaign from Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the powerful Koch network.

In a memo first reported by Politico and obtained by The Associated Press, AFP Action senior adviser Emily Seidel wrote that, while the group "stands firm behind our endorsement" of Haley, it would "focus our resources where we can make the difference," redirecting spending toward U.S. Senate and House campaigns and away from Haley's presidential bid.

"Given the challenges in the primary states ahead, we don't believe any outside group can make a material difference to widen her path to victory," Seidel wrote.

AFP Action had endorsed Haley's campaign in November, promising to commit its nationwide coalition of activists -- and virtually unlimited funds -- to helping her defeat Trump, with door knockers fanning out across early-voting states and sending out dozens of mailers on her behalf.

With his win Saturday in the first-in-the South contest, Trump has now swept every primary or caucus on the GOP early-season calendar that awards delegates. His performances have left little maneuvering room for Haley, his former U.N. ambassador.

"I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now," Trump said in a victory night celebration in Columbia.

Haley insists she is sticking around even with the growing pressure to abandon her candidacy and let Trump focus entirely on Democratic President Joe Biden, in a 2020 rematch.

In addition to the rally in vote-rich Oakland County, Michigan, northwest of Detroit on Sunday evening, she scheduled a Monday event in Grand Rapids, a western Michigan Republican hub. Ahead of the first event on Sunday evening, dozens of supporters filed into a Troy hotel ballroom, festooned with campaign signs and featuring a guitar-playing duo to entertain the crowd, rather than Haley's typical classic rock rally playlist, although speakers eventually blared with the campaign's familiar soundtrack.

Taking the stage, Haley gave the roughly half-hour speech typical of her events, although she added a few touches specific to the Michigan audience. Calling Biden's incentivizing of electric vehicle programs "corporate welfare," Haley asked attendees in this state where the auto industry is a major economic driver about the unfairness of any requirement to switch to electric.

"What about the fact that maybe we all don't want to drive an electric car?" Haley asked the crowd, which affirmed her line of questioning. "Have you seen how expensive they are?"

The Biden administration has voiced a goal of ensuring that EVs make up half of all new car sales by 2030. Last month, the White House announced it was awarding $623 million in grants to states, local governments and tribes to help build an electric vehicle charging network across the nation.

In another tweak to her argument, as she pushes forward through the next batch of states to vote, Haley reiterated her comments from Saturday night that the fact she nearly notched 40% in South Carolina shows the stark percentage of voters who don't favor Trump, something she says would make it hard for him to win the general election.

"He's not going to get that 40% if he's going and calling out my supporters and saying they're 'barred permanently from MAGA,'" Haley said, referencing Trump's comments directed at anyone who funded her campaign. "He's not going to get the 40% by calling them names."

Asa Hutchinson, a Trump critic and former Arkansas governor who dropped out of the GOP presidential race after Iowa's leadoff caucuses in January, said he thought Haley should stay in. "The challenge is that she did everything she could in South Carolina," he said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

Haley has pledged to keep going through at least the batch of primaries on March 5, known as Super Tuesday. "But it's got to accelerate because you run into the delegate wall. And the delegate wall is March 5," Hutchinson said. "So she's got to prove herself."

South Carolina's most prominent Republicans stood with Trump, including U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, who endorsed him this past week.

To U.S. Rep. Russell Fry, "this has always been a primary in name only" and that Trump was never in jeopardy of losing to Haley. Fry said Trump would be the GOP nominee and the latest election results were "just further validation of that."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Trump ally, said Trump was on "a pathway" to being able to clinch the nomination by mid-March. "I would say the wind is strongly" at his back, Abbott told CNN.

Not all voters in South Carolina want Haley to end her campaign.

Irene Sulkowski of Daniel Island said she hoped Haley would soldier on, suggesting the former governor would be a more appealing general election candidate than Trump despite his popularity among the GOP base that powers the primary season.

"They're not thinking, 'Who do you want to represent us in the general election?'" said Sulkowski, an accountant. "And they need to have a longer-term view."