Nikki Haley earned more than 150,000 votes in Pennsylvania: That spells trouble for Biden or Trump

Pennsylvania is one of the most important of the seven crucial battleground states in the 2024 presidential election and Nikki Haley supporters could play a major role in the election.

Haley, a former UN ambassador and former South Carolina governor, received more than 150,000 votes in Pennsylvania’s GOP primary last week after having dropped out of the race in early March.

She had positioned herself as a more moderate alternative to Trump with less baggage and she may have had more appeal to the general electorate as evident from polls, which had shown her leading President Joe Biden by double-digits,. In comparison, Biden and former President Donald Trump are in a statistical tie with tight contests in most of the key battleground states.

Biden won Pennsylvania in 2020 by less than 81,000 votes. Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016  by less than 50,000 votes. So Haley’s share of the vote is more than enough to tip the state, and by some estimates possibly even the election itself.

So goes Pennsylvania goes the nation? 

Pennsylvania’s moderate political temperament makes it a good gage of the national mood and its 19 electoral votes are a lofty prize.

Not since George W. Bush in 2004 has any candidate won the White House without Pennsylvania, which since 1992 has been won alongside the battleground states of Michigan (16) and Wisconsin (10).

The latter two states are also hotly contested this year. All three are considered to be crucial to Biden’s re-election chances.

Analysts project Trump may be able to win without carrying all three states. But losing Pennsylvania would also put Trump at a considerable disadvantage in the contest to reach 270 electoral votes.

A loss in Pennsylvania would force both Trump and Biden to make up ground elsewhere.

And the contest is likely to be even narrower this year in all the swing states because of the candidacy of independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is polling at anywhere from 8%-12%.

It is considered highly unlikely that Kennedy or Green Party candidate Jill Stein or independent candidate and commentator Cornel West would win any electoral votes but each of them can be a spoiler.

Where will Haley’s votes go? 

Baltimore Post-Examiner spoke with three former members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation to get their thoughts.

Former Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) (Twitter)

“The fact is Pennsylvania has turned significantly more blue in recent years,” Jason Altmire, a Democrat, who served from 2007-13, said.

“While other candidates who have tried Trump’s brand of populism there have failed miserably, Trump himself remains popular among his base of Pennsylvania voters. The question is if this base is enough to make up ground in a state Trump lost in 2020 and that Biden has showered with all the largess his office had to offer, with more to come. The Haley protest vote may not all go to Biden in November, but some will. It’s hard to see how Trump can make up the ground he’s already lost in Pennsylvania, which rightly views itself as Biden’s home turf.”

Ryan Costello, a Republican, who served from 2015-19, said Trump will probably win over a large share of Haley’s voters.

Former Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) (

“I think it splits up. I think probably the plurality of those voters end up voting for Trump. But it is probably less than 60%. It might even be less than 50%. You really have to go in there and scrape that data to figure out who they are, what motivates them and will it be an issue that they vote for in November or will it be against an individual? And I think that that is even going to be a hodgepodge of different answers.”

Costello said he expects a small number of Haley’s voters to go to RFK Jr. and a respectable share to go to Biden.

“I think you could find upwards of a third vote actually for Trump. And they view that as their chance to demonstrate what kind of Republican they are. But I think this time around there are several Republicans that soured on Biden with the view that he has kind of caved to the left.”

Melissa Hart, a Republican, who served from 2001-07, said it is hard to predict where Haley’s voters might throw their support.

Former Rep. Melissa Hart (R-Pa.)(

“They are kind of all over the map…I know a lot of Democrats who have been Democrats all of their lives who can’t abide with what is going on with this administration…But they don’t like Trump. So in the end, what are they going to do? Some of them will vote for Trump. Some of them will hold their nose and vote for Biden. Some of them will vote for somebody else.”

Hart said it is probably a mistake to assume that Biden will win over a large chunk of Haley’s voters.

“It is hard to predict. I don’t think that the people who voted for Haley over Trump in the closed Republican primary are necessarily going to vote for Biden. I think that is a very small piece.”

Hart said Pennsylvania will not determine the outcome of the election.

Hart said Republicans might gain some support among the state’s Jewish voters due to the onslaught of anti-Israel protests taking place on college campuses across the nation.

“Especially among those who are middle-aged and up… Friends have told me they can’t vote for Biden. A lot of the hard abortion stuff does not really matter to them. They don’t see that changing [in Pa.]…I think it has galvanized those who are Jewish Democrats in some cases. They understand that what they are thinking is common. They are not going to be alone. They are not going to be an outlier.”

Pennsylvania’s Jewish population is estimated to be about 434,000, which is about 3.5% of the state’s total population.

Pennsylvania’s governor, Josh Shapiro, is Jewish. The Democrat has spoken out against anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses.

Where do things stand? 

The latest poll shows Trump leading Biden by just 1 percentage point (50%-49%) in Pennsylvania.

That number is well within the poll’s margin of error.

Biden was born in Scranton and has long prided himself on his Pennsylvania roots despite having lived in Delaware most of his life.

The president also has staked many of his initiatives, such as the Inflation Recovery Act and efforts to bring manufacturing jobs back to the Rust Belt with the hope of carrying states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

The Trump campaign is hinging its hopes on high turnout in Pennsylvania’s rural areas, which helped the former real estate mogul carry the state in 2016 against Hillary Clinton.

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