As the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination enter the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses on February 1 and the New Hampshire primary on February 9, headlines in USA Today proclaimed on January 7, “ Trump’s campaign seems immune to what felled others — so far,” but the billionaire may be facing a formidable juggernaut in the South no matter the results in the heartland and New England.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has survived controversial statements and predictions by pundits of imminent demise since last spring to build a considerable lead going into the next phase of the campaign when the voters, or at least the delegates, have a say, although powerful forces in a southern state are coalescing behind a movement that may derail his plans.

South Carolina is emerging as the surprising force in the election as forces there merge to “Stop Trump.”

South Carolina’s Republican governor Nikki Haley at 43, is the youngest governor in the United States with a bright future ahead of her in the Republican party, and when Trump suggested a temporary moratorium barring Muslims from entering the United States, Gov. Haley said it would be “wrong” for the country, going on the record with her opposition to Trump as the nominee of the Republican party.

Other conservative South Carolinians have joined Haley in looking for a more traditional, establishment candidate, such as Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio who fit the mold the party is seeking to run, as opposed to the controversial, non-politician Trump whose outsider image has resonated with the public.

The Republican candidate will need to draw strong southern support from the party base in the national election in November to win, and Trump has forced native-son Sen. Lindsey Graham out of the race after consistently poor polling numbers.

Recently, South Carolina Republican Katon Dawson called on former President George W. Bush, who remains popular in the Palmetto State, to actively campaign for his brother, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who is trailing Trump in the polls, as $4 million worth of pro-Jeb ads are scheduled to hit the airwaves in the state.

If Cruz tops Trump in Iowa and the billionaire wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina will become key as its primary is held on February 20, only a week before the so-called “SEC Primaries” are held on March 1 when 14 states, predominantly southern, with 40 percent of the delegates at stake, vote.

Political experts are saying that a win in South Carolina could propel Trump through the SEC primaries and into the nomination at the convention in July.

Matt Towery, a conservative pollster, has outlined the importance of South Carolina in the primary battle.

“Whoever wins South Carolina is going to be viewed as the presumptive leader in all these other SEC primaries. Those who want to stop Trump have to make South Carolina their ultimate point of demarcation. For Trump, South Carolina needs to be a Maginot line.”

Trump has made enemies within the Republican party as he has gone on the trail alone, making it clear that he doesn’t need the party’s money or support to promote his outlier message.

The most recent RealClearPolitics poll average for South Carolina has Trump at 33.7 percent, Cruz at 19.3 percent, Rubio at 12.7, and Ben Carson at 11.3 percent. Jeb Bush is in single digits at 7.3 percent.


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