Decision 2024

Haley plans a two-week bus tour before South Carolina's GOP primary as Trump returns to the state

COLUMBIA, S.C. — (AP) — Nikki Haley is launching a bus tour before South Carolina's Republican presidential primary on Feb. 24, hoping the two-week push will show the former governor's commitment to her home state heading into the first-in-the-South vote.

It's a tall order in a state where support remains strong for former President Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner who has won the year's earliest nominating contests and is poised to pick up more delegates in Nevada's caucuses on Thursday.

Haley's bus tour kicks off Saturday, with its first stops planned in Newberry, Greenwood, Lexington and Orangeburg counties. According to the campaign, visits are also planned for Bamberg, Clemson and Lexington, to mark the places where Haley grew up, attended college and raised her children.

The tour is aiming to ramp up interest in South Carolina's early-voting period, which begins Monday, according to Haley's campaign. It's also a complement to her repeated critiques of Trump for not spending time in the state, as she's crisscrossed it, holding nearly a dozen campaign events across South Carolina in the past two weeks.

That reality will change this weekend, with Trump planning a get-out-the-vote rally in Conway — a city inland from Myrtle Beach, where his support is deep — before more events lined up in the weeks that follow. In his absence, Trump's campaign has traveled the state with some of his high-level endorsers, including U.S. Reps. Nancy Mace, Russell Fry and William Timmons, all of whom have levied criticisms at Haley and, like Trump, called on her to end her 2024 bid.

Haley, who served for two years as Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, has escalated her own attacks against her former boss, arguing to audiences at her events that Trump's various legal cases mean that he's been in court, while she's been campaigning.

She's poked fun at Trump for declining to debate her, a tack also taken by a super political action committee supporting her bid.

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Meg Kinnard can. be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP