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Once underdogs in the presidential race, Haley voters could now be kingmakers

Earlier this year, David Wardlaw was annoyed when former President Trump denounced Nikki Haley, his then-rival, on his Truth Social account, warning that anyone who supported her campaign would be “permanently barred from the MAGA camp.”

“That’s when I went ahead and wrote her a check,” Wardlaw told NPR’s Jeongyoon Han in February. “The thing is, he needs our vote and here he is cutting us off.”

Wardlaw had traveled from his home in Georgia to attend a rally in Haley’s home state of South Carolina along with some family members.

He’s voted for Trump in the past two general elections. But this year, he says he was beginning to tire of Trump’s divisive personality and hoped to cast a ballot for Haley in November.

Speaking by phone recently, Wardlaw says he’s come around to voting for the presumptive Republican nominee once again.

“I’m gonna vote for Trump even though he barred me. I’m gonna vote for him,” Wardlaw says now. “That’s how Trump is. He says stuff and it’s like, Dude, put a filter on it! But we’re down to who you’re gonna vote for.”

With the presidential race looking tight, one of the most-watched groups of potential swing voters is former Nikki Haley supporters like Wardlaw.

They turned out in large numbers in Republican primaries - in some cases, even after Haley suspended her campaign in early March. Many said they were seeking an alternative to former President Trump or President Joe Biden. In recent conversations, some say they are still searching, though others are resigned to the Biden-Trump rematch.

For some, a ‘hopeless’ choice

Faced with the choice of voting for Trump or Biden, Josie Schmidt, a Haley supporter from Richmond, Virginia says she's “right on the edge of hopeless,” but adds with a laugh,

Read more on npr.org