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Haley’s last stand?

Trump’s only remaining challenger has slim odds of winning the nomination

Nikki Haley at a campaign stop on Monday in Concord, N.H. Associated Press/Photo by Charles Krupa

Haley’s last stand?

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley concluded her whirlwind tour of New Hampshire in Salem on Monday night. She spoke to a crowd crammed into a hotel ballroom, with more in an overflow room and a long line out the door craning for a look. For months, she has insisted that she is the candidate best suited to bring change to the GOP and to defeat President Joe Biden in the fall. But she has a hard race to finish in the first in the nation primary.

“Here’s another hard truth,” she told the crowd. “I voted for Donald Trump twice. I was proud to serve America in his administration. But rightly or wrongly, chaos follows. You know I’m right. Chaos follows him. And we cannot have a country in disarray and have a world on fire and go through four more years of chaos because we won’t survive it.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ended his campaign on Sunday, leaving Haley as the lone challenger to former President Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump has since directed more attacks at her: At a recent rally in New Hampshire, he continued to call her “birdbrain.” He also referred to last week’s Iowa poll that found almost half of Haley’s supporters said they would vote for Biden in the general election if she did not win the nomination.

“What kind of Republican is that?” he demanded.

Haley has described herself as “a conservative that knows how to talk to moderates and independents and not make them feel bad, but make them feel included.”

Moderate and independents are important in New Hampshire. Unaffiliated voters account for 40 percent of the state’s eligible primary voters, and many of them like Haley. Her main argument against Trump is more electable. She has also insisted that her relative youth is an asset. (She is 52 years old while Trump is 77.) Last week, Trump repeatedly referred to Haley and her handling of Jan. 6, seemingly confusing her with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who turned down his offer of additional National Guard support in the Capitol on that day. Haley jumped on the gaffe and argued that Trump is also too old to be president, again pushing her proposal of mental acuity tests for all elderly politicians.

Trump said he took a cognitive test a few months ago and “aced it.”

Age is an important issue for Julia Jones, a teacher from Salem. She arrived on Monday night with a friend who plans to vote for Haley. Jones calls herself a left-leaning independent and wanted to give Haley a shot. She voted for Biden in 2020.

“I do feel like age is a factor, and I’m not a Trump supporter,” Jones told me. “So I started looking at Nikki Haley.”

While Jones said she could get behind most of Haley’s positions, recent comments about racism and rumors that she would raise the retirement age worried her. But after the event, Jones committed to voting for her.

“Her foreign policy really struck me tonight more than ever,” Jones said. “That was really pulling me because the world right now is a mess. And then some of the things that I was concerned about she has put out as lies from Trump, so I will have to do some fact-checking. But I am voting for Nikki at this point.”

A CNN/University of New Hampshire poll released Sunday found that 67 percent of registered Republicans likely to vote in the primary planned to support Trump. A majority of voters who registered as undeclared—58 percent—supported Haley. Roughly 47 percent of registered Republicans viewed Haley unfavorably, while Trump enjoyed 76 percent popularity.

Trump brought several South Carolina lawmakers on the stage with him at a New Hampshire rally in a dig to Haley’s standing in her home state. After DeSantis dropped out and endorsed Trump, several other Washington lawmakers followed suit. U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio called Trump “the presumptive nominee” in an X post, echoing the sentiments of many in the party.

Haley was quick to point out that she does not go after endorsements, even from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. After Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., endorsed Trump, Haley said in a statement that Trump is hypocritical for courting “Washington insiders” yet calling her too establishment.

Women compose another important vote in the state, but even here Haley, the only female candidate, might not have the edge. Her policy of finding a “national consensus” on abortion has angered many pro-life voters and does not appease pro-abortion and moderate women.

“The problem is not that she’s a Republican. The problem is that she’s not pro-choice for a lot of independent women in this particular state,” said Linda Fowler, professor emerita at Dartmouth University. She has been studying New Hampshire’s primaries since 1995. “These voters tend to be high-income, high-education, and professional women. Only about 13 percent of the population identifies as evangelical Christian. It’s quite a secular state with relatively low tendency towards philanthropy because people don’t tithe here. And so it isn’t a party thing. It’s a single-issue thing.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is a rare Republican who supports abortion. He’s also one of the country’s most popular governors with a 63 percent approval rating as of the University of New Hampshire August poll. On the campaign trail for Haley, he said that a strong finish would help her campaign. But he is striking a more cautious tone compared to his previous prediction that she would win the state.

Haley now says that she simply wants to keep building momentum.

“We want to be stronger in New Hampshire. We’re gonna do that,” she said at a campaign stop in Milford last week. “We won’t know what stronger is until the numbers come in. And then I want to be stronger than that in South Carolina.”

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.


This keeps me from having to slog through digital miles of other news sites. —Nick

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