Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley greets a supporter at Doc’s Barbecue in Columbia. (Photo by Megan Sever/Carolina News and Reporter)

Protesters interrupted Nikki Haley, yelling, “Fund the people’s needs, not the war machine” and “Free, free Palestine” at a campaign stop in Columbia.      

As the protesters were removed, Haley supporters in the audience began to cheer and chant “Nikki, Nikki, Nikki.” 

“Don’t ever get upset about people like that, because my husband and military men and women sacrifice every day for their right to do that,” Haley said after the interruption. 

Haley held the meet and greet event at Doc’s BBQ restaurant in Columbia on Feb. 1. Haley has focused her attention on her home state of South Carolina in the past few weeks ahead of the Feb. 24 Republican presidential primary. 

She began her speech to the crowd by touching on her accomplishments as governor.

“South Carolina became proud,” Haley said. “By the time I left we were named the friendliest state in the country, the most patriotic state in the country and don’t blame me for this one, the No. 2 state in the country that people were moving to.”

Haley then moved on to her concerns about the federal government, including improving the economy, lowering unemployment and cracking down on illegal immigration. 

Haley was introduced by state Rep. Nathan Ballentine, a longtime supporter from her time in the South Carolina Statehouse. Columbia mayor Daniel Rickenmann was also in attendance. 

The event drew voters from many walks of life, many of whom said they were impressed with her handling of the protesters. The Party for Socialism and Liberation later took credit on social media for the disruption.

Matthew Carlyon, a USC student who will be voting in his first election this primary, said he was on the fence about who to vote for before attending the event. 

“The thing I really liked about her is, I think she’ll actually unite our country,” Carlyon said. “I think we’ve had a lot of division. When the protesters came in, what she kind of touched on, that’s the reason we fight, so these people have the freedom of speech. I think that’s why she’ll be a great president.”

Adina Maynard, a nurse, said she hates the idea of a Joe Biden-Donald Trump rematch because she thinks Biden would win. She thinks Haley wins in a Biden-Haley general election.

“Even Democratic voters don’t want Biden on the ticket,” Maynard said. “How he got on the ticket, I don’t know. One of the scales that we use to test someone’s cognition, it’s called the MoCA assessment. Biden would fail that terribly and how he’s able to run for office again, I’m stumped.”

Many of the attendees expressed similar concerns about the ages and cognitions of Trump and Biden, including Haley herself. 

“We all know people over 75 that can run circles around us. And then we know Joe Biden,” Haley said. “These are people making decisions on our national security. These are people making decisions on the future of our economy. We need to know they’re at the top of their game.” 

USC economics doctoral student Ashley Rojas will be casting her first vote for a Republican because of Haley.

“I just love that she’s willing to work with both sides, that’s really what draws me to her.” Rojas said. “I just think that she’s younger, she’s smarter and the country is ready for something new.” 

While voters such as Maynard and Rojas haven’t cast a vote for Trump, many other attendees said they are turning against the former president for the first time this primary season. 

Jerry Williams, who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, said despite the fact that Trump currently is outpolling Haley in South Carolina, she still stands a chance. 

“If the people can get out to vote (who are) looking for a third choice,” Haley could win, Williams said. “But they have to get out and vote. Trump supporters are going to get out and vote. I think a lot of people unfortunately have already conceded, which I think is not fair to her. After the two primaries up North, people said, ‘Well, it’s over. Trump’s going to win.’”

Haley has said she won’t leave the race, to the frustration of Trump and his supporters.

Many event attendees said they were glad she’s sticking it out. 

“I think she just has to maintain her momentum and stick to her campaign and rally the troops,” Maynard said. “She’s the underdog. Not just because she’s female, but she’s going up against the two big ones.”

Haley speaks to the crowd. (Photo by Megan Sever/Carolina News and Reporter)

A Protester from the Party for Socialism and Liberation is escorted out of the event. (Photo by Megan Sever/Carolina News and Reporter)

Nikki Haley campaign signs outside Doc’s Barbeque (Photo by Megan Sever/Carolina News and Reporter)

Haley greets a supporter after her speech. (Photo by Megan Sever/Carolina News and Reporter)


Eva Flowe

Eva Flowe

Flowe is a junior multimedia journalism and education student at the University of South Carolina. She has worked as the student government beat writer and state and local government beat writer at the student-run publication, The Daily Gamecock. She freelances for The (Charleston) Post and Courier-affiliated Free Times in Columbia.

Megan Sever

Megan Sever

Sever is a freshman visual communications major at the University of South Carolina with a concentration in sports media and a minor in business. She is a student in this semester’s special projects photojournalism class. She is from Washington Court House, Ohio, and is excited to gain more experience to pursue a career in the sports industry.

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