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Nikki Haley wins Vermont, the only state to spurn Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary


Nikki Haley wins Vermont, the only state to spurn Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary

Mar 05, 2024 | 7:25 pm ET
By Emma Cotton and Paul Heintz
Joe Biden wins Vermont’s Democratic presidential primary

Donald Trump, left, and Nikki Haley. Photos by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Nikki Haley wins Vermont, the only state to spurn Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary
Photo courtesy of VT Digger

Updated Wednesday, March 6, at 7:49 a.m.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley won her first and only state in the Republican presidential primary on Tuesday — and it happened in Vermont. 

Haley defeated former President Donald Trump 49.4% to 45.1%, according to unofficial results from the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office, with all but two municipalities reporting. The Associated Press called the race for Haley at 10:37 p.m.

Though she prevailed in the Green Mountains on Super Tuesday — when Vermont and 14 other states held primary elections — Haley was trounced everywhere else, including the nearby New England states of Massachusetts and Maine. Prior to Tuesday, Haley had won only the District of Columbia. 

By Wednesday morning, Haley was preparing to drop out of the race, according to national news reports, effectively handing the GOP nomination to Trump. 

Still, her victory in Vermont demonstrated once again how deeply unpopular Trump is in the state. In the 2020 general election, he won just 31% of the vote and in the 2016 election 30%. 

Haley capitalized on that anti-Trump sentiment — and the state’s open primary system — to notch the win. Vermonters cannot formally register with a political party and are free to take Republican or Democratic presidential primary ballots. Many Democrats and independents in the state appeared to pull Republican ballots on Tuesday to vote against Trump — and for Haley. 

It’s a tactic her highest-profile supporter in Vermont, Republican Gov. Phil Scott, urged Trump opponents to employ. When Haley touched down in South Burlington for a rare presidential campaign appearance in the state Sunday, Scott urged Republicans, Democrats and independents alike to vote for her. 

“If you want to help stop Donald Trump, please, please show up on Tuesday, take a Republican ballot and vote for Nikki Haley,” the governor said. 

In a statement posted late Tuesday to X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, Scott wrote, “Vermont Republican primary voters stood on the right side of history tonight.”

In addition to Trump and Haley, Vermont’s Republican ballot included four other candidates, though each had dropped out by Tuesday: Texas pastor Ryan Binkley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. 

In the Democratic primary on Tuesday, President Joe Biden cruised to victory. The Associated Press called the race for the incumbent president at 7:20 p.m., soon after the polls closed. 

Biden faced minimal competition in Vermont’s primary, with five relatively unknown candidates sharing the ballot with him — among them U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., and self-help author Marianne Williamson. 

The president won an overwhelming majority of Democratic votes on Tuesday. With most municipalities reporting, he had captured 83% of the vote, with write-ins in second place at 6% and Williamson in third with 4%.

Voters had inflation, immigration and the future of American democracy on their minds as they headed to the polls on Tuesday, which was also Town Meeting Day in Vermont.

Many appeared to have taken Scott’s anti-Trump message to heart. Winooski resident Marley Beers, an independent, said she would typically pull a Democratic ballot. This time, she said, she voted for Haley in the GOP primary. 

“I don’t really want Trump to have a very easy path in getting the Republican nomination,” she said. 

Beers said she’d likely vote for Biden in a general election matchup between Haley and the incumbent president. She said her policy priorities included maintaining access to abortion and addressing student debt, an area in which she said Biden had disappointed her. 

South Burlington resident Art Shields, who identifies as an independent, said his policy priorities are also more aligned with Biden’s, but he too voted for Haley “so Donald Trump wouldn’t get the nomination.” Shields attended Haley’s event in South Burlington but said he had already decided to vote for her before the event.

“I think everything has gone too far to the right,” he said. “The country’s too divided, and I’m just not happy with the Republican Party the way that it is.”

Some voters who chose Trump cited concerns about the economy and immigration. 

South Burlington resident David Martin said he wasn’t sure until he arrived at the polls whether he’d take a Democratic or Republican ballot. He chose the latter and voted for Trump, he said. 

Martin said he’s “not a big Trump fan” but was disenchanted by Haley’s decision to stay in the race despite her long odds of winning the nomination. In November, Martin “certainly would not vote for Biden,” he said, adding that he’s concerned about inflation.

“After this, I’m going to the grocery store,” he said. “It’s just the two of us, but I’ll be spending $140.” 

Martin had just driven past a gas station sign showing that diesel for his car costs $4.40 per gallon. He said he expected to spend $80 to fill up.

In Milton, Stephanie Figueiredo said she voted for Biden in the last election but chose Trump for the first time because of his strict immigration policies and because she believes he will funnel more money to “normal people.”

“I hated him last year,” she said. “Then I started listening to things he had to say, and I said, ‘I’ll vote for him this time.’”

Some of those who voted for Biden on Tuesday cited both their desire to keep Trump out of office and their appreciation for the actions Biden has taken so far in office. 

“Our economy is doing well,” said South Burlington resident Andre LaFontaine. “Look at the data.”

Winooski resident August Arles said he voted for Biden because “keeping Trump out of office is the best bet at this point.”

Brian Keats, also from Winooski, said he, too, wants to see Trump beat. 

“I think it’s just getting the person who can rally the masses right now and not create so much conflict,” Keats said.