‘Zombie’ Haley voters don’t want Trump, but many not sold on Biden, either

Written by on May 13, 2024

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(WASHINGTON) — Nikki Haley dropped out of the 2024 Republican presidential primary in March, but she’s continued to rack up sizable numbers in state GOP primaries in the months ever since.

ABC News spoke with some of Haley’s so-called “zombie” voters about why they keep supporting her even though former President Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee.

Once Trump’s final Republican primary challenger, Haley suspended her campaign on March 6, the day after suffering considerable losses on Super Tuesday.

But in the two subsequent months, she has appeared on at least 20 ballots in states and territories that hadn’t removed her name from the ballot, a common practice among election divisions nationwide.

In states where Haley appeared on the ballot shortly after she suspended her campaign — including Georgia, Washington, Arizona, Florida and Illinois, where she won at least 13% — it’s possible that a share of her primary votes could have been from early in-person or mail-in ballots cast ahead of her exit from the race.

But in states such as Indiana, where she earned more than 22% this past Tuesday; in Pennsylvania, where she earned 16% on April 23; and in Wisconsin, where she earned 13% on April 2, voters were likely aware of her campaign’s suspension and some cast ballots for her in protest to Trump.

ABC News spoke with a number of Haley supporters in recent weeks. Some are committed to backing Biden in November; it’s unclear where others might turn.

“Obviously, it’s a symbolic expression at this point, one that’s very important,” said Craig Snyder from Philadelphia, who said he “absolutely” cast his ballot for Haley following her leaving the primary contest as a Trump protest vote.

He said he’s supporting Biden in November’s general election.

“The pattern that’s gone on now in several states of somewhere between 15-20% turning out in primaries voting for a candidate who is no longer a candidate, is that is a pretty clear expression that there is this sizable group of Republicans — obviously minority, but sizable group of Republicans — that feels as I do that Donald Trump has taken the party in a bad direction and Ambassador Haley really offered a better alternative,” Snyder said in an interview with ABC News.

“Even in the last several states where she hadn’t dropped out of the race, the outcome was very clear. I think this is primarily a statement about about the direction of the party a statement against Trump,” he added.

The latest example of the impressive “zombie” Haley votes came in Indiana, which held its presidential primaries last week. By Friday, with 98% of the expected vote reporting, Trump is projected to win the primary in Indiana by 78% of the vote, followed by Haley with 22% — more than 128,000 votes.

Much of Haley’s success in Indiana did come from Democratic-leaning parts of the state, though it’s unclear how many, if any, voters crossed party lines to cast ballots for her. In Marion County, which encompasses Indianapolis as the most populous county in the state, Haley had 33%. In Hamilton County, which encompasses some Indianapolis suburbs, Haley had 35%.

“I don’t usually vote the the primaries … But it was more strategic because I loathe Trump,” Leeann Krikau of Elkhart, Indiana, told ABC News. Krikau said she typically votes Democratic.

Biden’s campaign credited Haley’s Indiana performance to Trump’s lack of momentum in suburban areas, saying the same thing was happening in swing states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania. The Biden campaign added that the trend could have devastating impacts on the former president’s general election chances in places where there were razor-thin margins in 2020.

“This is a continuation of the longstanding trend throughout the GOP primary — voters came out to vote against Donald Trump and his extremism (even when he’s not running against anyone). In critical swing states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and others, voters who are critical to winning 270 electoral votes are coming out to vote against Donald Trump,” Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a memo following the Indiana election.

“Bottom line: Donald Trump has a general election problem. And he’s clearly not even remotely interested in solving it — he said he didn’t think he would ‘need’ those who voted for Haley,” Moussa continued.

Trump’s team hinged Haley’s numbers last Tuesday as an effect of their open primary system, meaning any registered voter could participate in either party’s primary and Democrats could support Haley.

“Indiana has an open primary and Democrats had little competitive contest on the ballot,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement to ABC News.

He added that Trump “clinched the primary weeks ago” that the campaign has “spent no money or resources on a primary campaign.”

But the open primary argument doesn’t hold weight in other places. In Pennsylvania, a pivotal battleground state, Haley earned 16% — or more than 157,000 — of the votes after she dropped out in a closed primary where only registered Republicans were able to participate.

In Arizona, another state with a closed primary, Haley earned 18% — or more than 110,000 votes.

Amanda Stewart Sprowls from Tempe, Arizona, is a longtime active Republican voter who supported Trump in both 2016 and 2020. This cycle, she cast a ballot for Haley during the state’s March 19 primaries and is “100% committed to not voting for Trump,” but isn’t sold on Biden.

“We’re basically Republicans in revolt right now. We we need to take a stand and demonstrate that we’re not happy with the Trump candidacy,” she told ABC News. “But that doesn’t mean that we’re voting Democrat.”

Stewart Sprowls said she is unsure if she’ll sit out, vote third party or back Biden in the general. She said she’d consider Biden only if he trends closer to the center of the political spectrum.

“Biden definitely has an opportunity to earn our votes,” Stewart Sprowls said.

Alissa Baker, a Haley supporter from Loudoun County, Virginia, agreed that the share of votes for the former ambassador following her exit might be concerning to both Trump and Biden.

“I think it speaks a lot to the fact that people are not satisfied with the choice that, you know, seem to be the presumptive decisions that we’re gonna have for November and they’re saying, you know, we do really want something different,” Baker said to ABC News, adding that the trend should be a “warning sign” to both campaigns.

Matthew Labkovski from Boca Raton, Florida, is another undecided Haley voter — he mailed in his ballot, however, ahead of her exit from the race. The a 26-year-old said he would have still voted for Haley on primary day — despite her suspension — as a direct signal to Trump.

“I wanted him to know that just because he’s getting a majority, a majority doesn’t mean the whole country,” Labkovski said.

He indicated that he was unsure of who he’d support in the general election, but is leaning toward sitting out or writing in a candidate’s name, likely Haley’s.

Even some of the Haley supporters who cast ballots for her on primary days while she was still in the race remain unsure of who they might back during the general.

Jack LaFrankie, a 25-year-old who voted for Haley in North Carolina on Super Tuesday, is still undecided about who he’ll support in the 2024 race. He told ABC News that he would write someone’s name in if the election were held today.

LaFrankie’s observation that people are still voting for Haley in these GOP primaries, despite her withdrawal from the race, is a testament to the resilience of Republican voters, he said. It suggests they are not quick to switch to Trump, demonstrating their steadfast commitment to their political beliefs, LaFrankie said.

“I think it shows that there are still, even after she dropped out, there’s just a lot of Republicans who are not on board the Trump train,” LaFrankie said. “And even though it’s not a viable option, they’re still just making the effort to go out and make their voice heard … they don’t approve of what has happened just to the whole Republican Party.”

-ABC News’ Hannah Demissie and Oren Oppenheim have contributed to this report.

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