Nikki Haley is vowing to stay in the race after losing to Trump in South Carolina

Despite another tough loss, this time on her home turf of South Carolina, Nikki Haley said Saturday that she will move forward in the Republican primary race regardless of the daunting road ahead.

Speaking to several hundred supporters at her ballroom party in Charleston, SC, Ms. Haley, a former governor of the state, cast herself as a voice for the “vast amount” of Americans seeking an alternative to President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump.

She argued that Mr. Trump would be the losing candidate in November and that the nation could not afford another four years of his turbulence or what she described as Mr. Biden’s failures.

“I know 40 percent is not 50 percent,” she said with a laugh, nodding to her share of the vote at the time she spoke. “But I also know that 40 percent is not a small group.”

But she struck a more serious and decisive tone in her remarks – so much so that, as she began, it was hard to tell whether she would actually follow through on her offer, as she had been promising for weeks. But she soon put an end to all speculation.

“I said earlier this week that regardless of what happens in South Carolina, I will continue to run for office,” she said. “I am a woman of my word.”

Ms Haley’s defeat in South Carolina followed a string of early defeats. Mr. Trump beat her in Iowa and New Hampshire in January, and “none of these candidates” outvoted her in a Nevada primary that did not include Mr. Trump. Still, she continued with campaign events, bought more ads and launched leadership teams of elected officials and community leaders in states across the country.

In New Hampshire, Ms. Haley won 43 percent of the vote, and at the start of the campaign in South Carolina, she and her allies said she needed to surpass that figure. But on stage Saturday, she portrayed the 40 percent she won at that point — a share that dropped slightly to 39 percent later in the night — as roughly the same.

In her speech, she argued that the nation needed new leadership amid a “world on fire.”

“Our country seems to be falling apart,” she said, adding that she was worried “to the core” about its future. “America will fall apart if we make the wrong choices. This was never about me or my political future. We have to beat Joe Biden in November.”

Ms. Haley’s supporters were expecting a disappointing outcome in South Carolina, and as CNN projected Mr. Trump’s victory minutes after the polls closed, it barely registered among the dozens of people waiting for her to take the stage. Within moments, the music picked up again. As Ms Haley delivered her short speech, the crowd erupted in chants of “Nicky, Nicky” and “USA”.

The crowd at her party was much smaller in South Carolina than at her gatherings in Iowa and New Hampshire. Mr. Trump has long been seen as stronger in the Palmetto State, having consolidated support among its Republicans, and he leads it by more than 30 percentage points in some polls.

In recent weeks, touring the state on a bus tour, Ms. Haley has sought to remind voters of her accomplishments as governor and stepped up her attacks on Mr. Trump.

She called him too old and out of touch. She called him “independent” and a source of chaos. She went after what she described as his cozy relationships with dictators and his disrespect for members of the military, including her husband, Maj. Michael Haley, a member of the National Guard. She argued that Mr. Trump would lead Republicans to ruin in November.

But on home soil, she rarely took questions from reporters and never from voters. Her piles were small and low-energy.

Still, Ms. Haley said she would travel to Michigan on Sunday as expected before Tuesday’s state primary and to states across the country ahead of Super Tuesday on March 5, when 15 states and one territory will hold contests.

“Today is not the end of our story,” she said.

In interviews at Ms. Haley’s party, some of her supporters insisted that as long as she topped the polls and showed progress, she could rejuvenate her campaign.

Still, one supporter, Ginny Bankov, 72, a former special education teacher, seemed smitten.

“I just thought something miraculous was going to happen today,” she said.

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