Former President Donald Trump is the clear front-runner in the race to be the Republican party's presidential nominee. There is no disputing that.
But whether the race can be truly deemed over depends on how long former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley hangs around the race. From a mathematical standpoint, the race is far from over.
There have only been two nominating events so far — the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary — which, combined, have only awarded about 4% of total GOP delegates. But Trump has already proven himself to be hard to beat, and without some serious development in the race, it's hard to envision a scenario where Haley can make up the gap in polling.
The race turns to South Carolina
While technically, the next nominating event will be held in Nevada, Haley is not vying for any delegates there. The state is having both a primary and caucuses. Haley is on the primary ballot, where no delegates will be awarded; whereas Trump will be on the ballot at caucuses, which the GOP will use to divvy delegates.
Essentially the next race to watch comes later this month in South Carolina, which happens to be Haley's home state where she previously served as governor.
Given she is a South Carolina native and the state's former governor, one would expect her to do well there.
Recent polls, however, show Trump far in front. For instance, a Monmouth University-Washington Post poll found Trump ahead 58-32 among likely primary voters in South Carolina. Nationally, the picture is far more bleak.
An NBC News pollreleased last week had Trump leading Haley nationally 79-19.
Following South Carolina's Feb. 24 primary are several primaries on March 2, followed by Super Tuesday on March 5. By that point, nearly 20 states will have had their nominating contests. Whether Haley can even make it to March remains a question as many within the Republican National Committee, besides Trump himself, are calling for Haley to exit the race.
Contributions keep Haley's campaign alive
Running a presidential campaign isn't cheap. While many candidates can hang in for the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, staying in the race for Super Tuesday and beyond can be quite costly. Each state needs its own ground organization, with offices and other expenses.
On Monday, the New York Times reported that Haley's campaign garnered $16.5 million in contributions in January.
The infusion of cash could help her see the campaign to Super Tuesday if she decides to stay in the race after South Carolina.
“We are going to have the resources to go the distance,” Betsy Ankeny, Haley’s campaign manager, told the New York Times. “We will continue to fight as long as we have momentum and have the resources to do so.”
On Saturday, Haley made an appearance on "Saturday Night Live," mocking herself for her past response to a question about what caused slavery. The appearance provided Haley with the kind of free media coverage that is valuable for candidates.