Nikki Haley pitches ‘better choice’ for Republicans, claiming momentum after primary losses

(WASHINGTON) — Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley faced a growing chorus of calls from former President Donald Trump’s allies and other top Republicans to suspend her White House campaign in the wake of her double-digit loss to Trump in New Hampshire’s primary.

But she’s fighting on, she says, with weeks to go — and weeks to try to change her standing in the polls — before the next major primary, in her home state of South Carolina on Feb. 24.

“Nikki Haley took on the political elites when she ran for governor of South Carolina, and she’s ready to do the same thing again,” Haley campaign spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said in a statement rolling out two new ads in South Carolina. “South Carolina voters elected Nikki twice thanks to her conservative record of creating jobs, cutting taxes, and combating illegal immigration. They know that Nikki will always fight for them—not the D.C. establishment.”

The new ads — part of a $4 million buy in the state — look to tout Haley’s record during her six years as South Carolina’s governor and contrast her with both President Joe Biden and Trump, the two likeliest 2024 nominees despite polls before the nominating race showing that voters liked the idea of other choices.

“Biden — too old. Trump — too much chaos. A rematch no one wants. There’s a better choice for a better America. Her story started right here, America’s youngest governor, a conservative Republican. And boy did she deliver,” a narrator in one of the new ads says. “Nikki Haley will cut taxes, close the border and defeat the Chinese Communist threat.”

With two rallies this weekend, her campaign has also repeatedly touted the spree of primaries on March 5 — dubbed Super Tuesday — as another chance after her home state for Haley to make a splash in the nominating race.

“We’re going to bring that fight to South Carolina, and you’re gonna see us on the airwaves, in mailboxes, at people’s doors, on the phones. Not just South Carolina,” Mark Harris, the lead strategist with the main pro-Haley super PAC, told reporters on Wednesday. “And then moving on to Super Tuesday — California, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, all of these states that have good aspects to them.”

Of note, according to Haley’s allies, are the states where non-Republicans can cast ballots in the Republican primary (with some restrictions) and potentially boost her appeal to anti-Trump, independent and more moderate voters.

Still, that confidence flies in the face of the available polling on the primary path forward and the opinions of many Republican lawmakers and power brokers. Trump himself lashed out on Tuesday night after Haley claimed momentum in New Hampshire, despite losing.

“She’s doing like a speech like she won,” he said. “She didn’t win. She lost.”

Experts believed that New Hampshire offered Haley one of her best chances of actually winning a state primary given its law allowing independents to participate in the Republican race. She also had no other anti-Trump candidate to compete against after former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie left the race, and she won the endorsement of popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, a vocal Trump critic.

But Haley lost New Hampshire by about 11 points, though she pointed out that that was an improvement over the thorough romping by Trump in last week’s Iowa caucuses, where he won by more than 30 points.

Next up is South Carolina in February, where Trump currently has a 37-point lead in 538’s polling average.

“This race is far from over,” Haley said on Tuesday night. “There are dozens of states left to go.”

But her defeats so far and challenges ahead have even other Trump skeptics lining up behind the former president — and urging more Republicans to do the same.

“I have seen enough. To beat Biden, Republicans need to unite around a single candidate, and it’s clear that President Trump is Republican voters’ choice,” declared Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who had said last year that “I think President Trump’s time has passed him by.”

Haley is currently ruling that out, but some strategists expect that she won’t make it to South Carolina’s primary next month, particularly since a big loss in her home state could be a black mark on her electoral record.

“She will test her efforts and realize she is gonna get blown out of the water in her home state. I’ve been through a tough presidential campaign there with McCain. New Hampshire is a beanbag toss by comparison,” said New Hampshire GOP strategist Mike Dennehy, who worked on the late Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns.

“She simply is not ready for what’s coming her way in a state dominated by a conservative Republican establishment,” he said.

On Wednesday night, Haley, though, continued campaigning, addressing a crowd of roughly 500 people in North Charleston, South Carolina, where she touted her performance in the New Hampshire primary, and responded to Trump’s comments from the previous night.

“We got out there, and we did our thing, and we said what we had to say. And then Donald Trump got out there and just threw a temper tantrum. He pitched a fit,” she told the crowd. “He was he was insulting. He was doing what he does, but I know that’s what he does when he’s insecure. I know that’s what he does when he is threatened, and he should feel threatened without a doubt.”

At the event, Haley also said her campaign had raised $1 million since her concession speech Tuesday night.

“Do you know by the way that we have raised a million dollars since I gave that speech last night online in small dollars?” she asked the audience, who responded with applause.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

SHARE NOW