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Nikki Haley, Trump's last major challenger, will suspend her presidential campaign

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On this super Wednesday after Super Tuesday, in which states across the country voted in presidential primaries, President Biden dominated, as expected. Donald Trump, on the Republican side, dominated, as expected. Nikki Haley won a single state. And we now understand that Haley is expecting to drop out of the race - or rather, suspend her presidential campaign. The former South Carolina governor is expected to make a speech a little bit later on today. She did not have a concession speech or anything like that last evening but is expected to talk about 10 o'clock Eastern time, and our understanding is that she will drop out.

NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea begins our coverage. Don, good morning.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: So what do you make of this development?

GONYEA: It was going in the wrong direction for Nikki Haley. She said after Michigan, which was - what? Let's do the math. It just was last week (laughter).

INSKEEP: It feels like weeks ago, but it was a few days back, yeah.

GONYEA: Exactly - that she was in through Super Tuesday. And here we are. NPR has confirmed - our colleague Sarah McCammon has confirmed from sources that this is the end of the line. And the map yesterday is really telling, right? In places like Iowa early on, Michigan, New Hampshire, she was in the high 30s, even in the 40% range in some cases. The map yesterday, with the exception of Vermont, which she carried with 49%, there was a lot of, you know, 17% against Donald Trump, 19%, 15% in Oklahoma. You know, Virginia and Utah were kind of the high watermark other than Vermont - you know, in the 30s, cracking 40, barely, there. But it was just clear to her that this was the end of the line. So we'll get this announcement today. And it still raises a lot of questions as to...

INSKEEP: Yeah. Let's talk about one of the questions. We've been able to confirm, as The Wall Street Journal first reported, that Haley is not going to endorse Donald Trump. She is going to, in some fashion - this is the way The Wall Street Journal phrased it, anyway - that she is going to, in some fashion, call upon Trump to earn the votes of Republican voters. Now, it's clear that he's got the votes of the majority of Republican voters, but there is that slice of people who have said in interviews and in exit polls that they were for Haley at least in part because they had serious concerns about Donald Trump as a presidential candidate once again.

GONYEA: I have been talking to a lot of those very voters at Haley events from Iowa and right on through. And they tend to fall into three groups. And at least according to my, you know, unscientific conversations talking to, you know, 10 people here, 15 people here, you know, six people there, they break down about a third, a third, a third. And one third tells me that they're going to look third party, or maybe they'll just leave the top of the ballot blank and vote down ballot. So that was common. Just as common were people who would say to me, oh, push comes to shove, I have to vote for Trump 'cause there would be no other choice at that point, and I am a loyal Republican. But again, there was also a group that said they would vote for Biden. So we'll see when push comes to shove where these people actually go.

INSKEEP: And there is going to be a lot, I think we can expect this fall, of candidates on both sides or surrogates on both sides essentially saying, you may not like our guy, but the other guy is so terrible, you just got to - you just got to. That's going to be the Republican appeal and, honestly, in some cases, the Democratic appeal, isn't it?

GONYEA: Exactly, exactly. And that's what I've been hearing all along. And we'll see if that changes at all. It's also a question of turnout, whether or not they are enthused enough to vote at all. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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