Nikki Haley pitches Republicans’ ‘best option’, claiming momentum after initial losses


Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has faced a growing chorus of calls from allies of former President Donald Trump and other top Republicans to suspend her White House campaign in the wake of her more than 10% loss to Trump in the New Hampshire primary.

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

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

The new ads — part of a $4 million buyout in the state — look to highlight Haley’s record during her six years as South Carolina’s governor and compare her to both President Joe Biden and Trump, the most likely 2024 candidates despite pre-nomination polls. The race shows that voters liked the idea of ​​other options.

“Biden – too old. Trump – too much chaos. A rematch no one wants. There is a better option for a better America. Her story began here, America’s youngest governor, a conservative Republican. And she gave birth to a child.” says the narrator in one of the new ads. “Nikki Haley will cut taxes, close borders, and defeat the Chinese communist threat.”

Haley is hosting an event in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday and announced two marches over the weekend.

Her campaign has also repeatedly touted the March 5 primary wave — dubbed Super Tuesday — as another opportunity for Haley after her home term to make a big splash in the nomination race.

Photo: Republican presidential candidate and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley delivers her remarks at her primary meeting at the Graponi Convention Center, January 23, 2024, in Concord, New Hampshire.

Republican presidential candidate and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley delivers her remarks at her campaign rally at the Graponi Convention Center, on January 23, 2024, in Concord, New Hampshire.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

“We’re going to take that fight to South Carolina, and you’re going to see us on the airwaves, in mailboxes, on people’s doors, on phones. Not just South Carolina,” said Mark Harris, chief strategist on the key team. The pro-Haley super PAC told reporters on Wednesday. “Then we move on to Super Tuesday — California, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, all of these states that have good sides to them.”

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

However, this confidence is at odds with available polling on the basic path forward and the views of many Republican lawmakers and power brokers. Trump criticized himself on Tuesday night after Haley gained momentum in New Hampshire, despite her loss.

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

Experts believe New Hampshire offered Haley one of her best chances of actually winning the state’s primary due to its law allowing independents to participate in the Republican race. She also had no other anti-Trump candidate to compete with after former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie left the race, and she received the endorsement of popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, a staunch Trump critic.

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

Next up is South Carolina in February, where Trump currently leads by 37 points Polling average 538.

“This race is not over yet,” Haley said Tuesday evening. “There are dozens of countries remaining.”

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

Photo: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley greets supporters after her first campaign event, February 15, 2023, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley greets supporters after her first campaign event, February 15, 2023, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

“I’ve seen enough,” declared Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who said last year. “To beat Biden, Republicans need to unite around one candidate, and President Trump is clearly the choice of Republican voters.” “I think President Trump’s time has passed.”

Haley is currently ruling this out, but some strategists expect that she will not make it to the South Carolina primary next month, especially since the big loss in her home state could be a black mark on her electoral record.

“She’s going to test her efforts and realize she’s going to be blown out of the water in her home state,” the New Hampshire GOP strategist said. “I had a tough presidential campaign there with McCain. New Hampshire is a beanbag throw in comparison.” Mike Dennehy, who worked on the presidential campaigns of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2000 and 2008.

“She is simply not prepared for what is coming her way in a state dominated by the conservative Republican establishment.”

ABC News’ Abby Cruz and Nicholas Kerr contributed to this report.

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