WALTERBORO, SC — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) announced Wednesday that she is endorsing Marco Rubio for president, potentially giving the Florida senator a much needed bump in the state ahead of Saturday’s primary.
But Donald Trump supporters in South Carolina’s lowcountry aren’t bothered that the real estate mogul lost the governor and rising GOP star’s endorsement. Voters at Trump rallies on Wednesday told ThinkProgress that Haley lost their support when she made the decision last summer to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol, where it had flown for 54 years. And they said they will never forgive her.
“That’s history,” said Tammi Lawton, who attended Trump’s rally in Walterboro with four friends. “No matter which way you look at it, that is history. That’s Southern history, and she’s a stupid idiot.”
Ridgeland, South Carolina-resident Dianne Lawson said that she voted for Haley in 2014, but wouldn’t do it again.
“She lost her support in South Carolina this past summer,” she said. “I’d always been a supporter of Nikki Haley, but I don’t believe the package that she’s selling anymore. She knuckled under to political pressure and she went too quick and didn’t care what South Carolina residents thought. It was all about what was going to make her look good.”
And Chris Horsley said he is upset that Haley didn’t let state residents vote on the issue. “She was a totalitarian on it,” he said. “It should have been up to the people of South Carolina.”
CREDIT: Kira Lerner
The feelings weren’t limited to just the lowcountry. Bruce Mayer, who saw Trump speak later Wednesday in Sumter, South Carolina, agreed.
“I voted for her twice and I’m extremely disappointed in her,” he said. “No matter what your views are on the Confederate flag in South Carolina, I feel like she leveraged that situation shamelessly down in Charleston where all those poor people were murdered. She took that situation and immediately politicized it and started screaming for the Confederate flag to come down.”
Mayer noted that Haley has already served her two times as governor, and was not interested in listening to South Carolina residents’ views on the flag before making her decision.
“Her eyes are on the national political stage, and she knows that the media and all the politicians in Washington will look extremely favorably on the fact that she brought the Confederate flag down in South Carolina.”
“I’m ashamed that I ever voted for her,” he continued. “Absolutely ashamed. She completely threw her principles out the window.”
Haley is currently the most popular Republican politician in South Carolina, largely because of her response to the Charleston shooting, according to The State newspaper. And she is frequently considered a leading vice presidential contender.
But all of the Trump supporters who spoke with ThinkProgress said they would not vote for a Republican presidential ticket that included Haley’s name. Mayer even said he would consider voting for a Democrat instead.
When Mayer’s friend pointed out that he would vote for a ticket with Haley over one with someone like Biden, Mayer wasn’t so sure.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m so angry. I’m so angry about that happening the way that it did.”
A poll released this week found that 70 percent of Republicans in South Carolina think the Confederate flag should still be flying over the state capitol, while just 20 percent agree with the decision to take it down.
While the removal of the Confederate flag was by far the most common reason Trump supporters cited for disliking Haley, others mentioned other ways they think she’s hurt the state. Lawton claimed that after the Charleston shooting last year, Haley joined the masses of politicians in Washington pushing for stricter gun control laws. “She tried to take our guns,” she said.
Haley has an A+ rating from the NRA and made no efforts after the Charleston shooting to encourage stricter gun laws. “There is one person to blame here, a person filled with hate, a person that does not define South Carolina, and we are going to focus on that one person,” she said immediately after the shooting.
Trump has also criticized Haley for not doing enough to protect the state from Syrian refugees and from the possibility of Guantanamo prisoners being transferred to the Navy prison outside Charleston. Haley has fired back and has spoken out against Trump, telling South Carolinians not to listen to the angriest voices in the party.