Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley reacts while speaking about her husband, Maj. Michael Haley, who is currently deployed with the South Carolina National Guard, during a campaign stop at the Clemson University at Greenville ONE building ahead of the Republican presidential primary election in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S. February 20, 2024. 

Alyssa Pointer | Reuters

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will drop out of the 2024 presidential race Wednesday after losing every state but one — Vermont — in Super Tuesday’s primary contests, a source familiar with Haley’s plans confirmed to NBC News, ceding the Republican nomination to former President Donald Trump.

Haley’s move will kick off the general election, with Trump and President Joe Biden taking unofficial command of their parties early in primary season after a string of victories.

Haley, a hand-picked member of Trump’s Cabinet from 2017 to 2018, was the first major Republican to launch a challenge against the former president in Feb. 2023. Her campaign had a slow start, but she gained momentum after multiple strong debate performances last summer and fall. Ultimately, her measured criticism of Trump — she said Jan. 6 was a “terrible day” and criticized Trump’s conduct during the Capitol riot and at other times while he was president, but she also said she’d pardon him if he was convicted of federal crimes — earned her increasing support among more anti-Trump Republicans and independents, especially in New Hampshire.

That criticism grew more strident as the race narrowed and Haley moved into one-on-one combat with Trump on the campaign trail. Haley told NBC earlier this month that the former president was “diminished” and “unhinged,” explaining away her past support for Trump by bluntly saying “he is not the same person he was in 2016.”

“We have to see this for what it is,” Haley said. “This is a fact: He is now saying things that don’t make sense.”

But while Haley’s Trump criticism tapped into a slice of online donors who fueled her campaign, and her support rose, she was unable to pull within even single digits of Trump in almost all the Republican nominating contests.

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