Bruised and betrayed, Nikki Haley defies Trump juggernaut | Inquirer News

Bruised and betrayed, Nikki Haley defies Trump juggernaut

/ 01:20 AM February 10, 2024

Nikki Haley US elections

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks while attending a campaign event at Indian Land High School’s auditorium in Lancaster, South Carolina, U.S. February 2, 2024. (REUTERS/File Photo)

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, South Carolina  – These are testing times for Nikki Haley.

The ex-envoy to the U.N. has been abandoned by allies and become an outsider in her own party. She has lost a primary where she was the only name on the ballot. The storm has come to her doorstep, with her home targeted by “swatting” hoaxes.


Haley is still standing, for now, defying seemingly impossible odds to stay in the race against Donald Trump to become the Republican presidential nominee in the 2024 election.


Rob Godfrey, who served as a high-ranking Haley aide when she was governor of South Carolina from 2011 through 2017, said she enjoyed situations when she had her back against the wall.

“Ultimately, this was going to be a race that was going to pit her against Donald Trump,” he added. “I think she’s comfortable in that role as an underdog, even if the political class lined up against her.”

Reuters spoke to eight people close to Haley, including senior campaign operatives and donors, who nonetheless spoke of a sense of betrayal within her team about her loss of support within the Republican Party in recent weeks.

Some people within and close to the campaign feel increasingly isolated by a hostile party, according to the people interviewed, most of whom requested anonymity to speak frankly. One aide – describing the mood at team HQ after almost all the Republican congressional delegation in her home state of South Carolina endorsed Trump – said it felt as if F-16 fighter jets were circling overhead.

Haley’s team did not respond to a request for comment.

The 52-year-old’s reaction in recent days to the rising chorus of Republican voices demanding she pull out to leave Trump unopposed has been to unleash her strongest attacks to date on the former president after months of holding back.


On the trail, she has blasted Trump – who dismisses her as a “bird-brain” – for spending $50 million of campaign money on legal fees and for throwing “tantrums”. Her campaign has branded him a “chicken” for refusing to debate her, the “king of hypocrisy” and an old man way past his prime.

Haley has also sought to turn the tables on the 77-year-old former president by casting herself as the outsider resisting the Republican establishment.

“All those congressional members around him are the same ones that haven’t done anything for us,” she said to cheers at a campaign event in the South Carolina town of Hilton Head last week as she prepared to contest the state primary on Feb. 24, where she trails by more than 30 percentage points.

“Trump can have ’em.”


The pressure on Team Haley, after heavy primary defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire last month, ratcheted up in Nevada on Tuesday when Haley was trounced by a “none of these candidates” option in a primary that Trump didn’t contest.

She still hasn’t shown signs of cracking, though, insisting she would stay in the race for the White House for “the long haul.” Her campaign has rolled out leadership teams in at least five states – Alaska, Massachusetts, Idaho, Utah and Washington – that do not vote until March.

“Just know, I’m not going anywhere,” she said at a campaign event on Wednesday. “I’m in this for the long haul. And this is going to be messy. And this is going to hurt, and it’s going to leave some bruises.”

On Thursday, her campaign announced she would appear at a flurry of events to be held in South Carolina over the weekend and host a rally in Dallas next week.

The Nevada blow followed calls from high-ranking Republican officials across the country for Haley to drop out in recent weeks. In South Carolina – where she lives and has her headquarters – most of the state legislature and all but one member of the congressional delegation has endorsed the former president.

One Haley campaign operative described the situation on the ground as “awkward,” as so many prominent Republicans in the state had thrown their weight behind the former president, leaving Haley’s team effectively isolated.

The decisions in late January by U.S. Senator Tim Scott and U.S. Representative Nancy Mace, both former Haley allies in South Carolina, to endorse Trump enraged some members of the campaign, according to two people close to Haley.

“Everybody has got to sleep with their own decisions,” Haley said last week of Scott, whom she first appointed to the U.S. Senate when she was governor.

“We’ll let him sleep with that.”

Some staff and donors viewed the Mace endorsement as particularly tough to take, given that Haley had campaigned on her behalf after Trump endorsed Mace’s primary opponent in the 2022 congressional election, those people said.

During a press conference last week, Mace called Haley “China’s favorite governor,” a reference to her recruitment of Chinese firms to the state during her time in office. She later accused Haley of raising taxes while she was in office.

On top of the political fighting, Haley’s family home has been targeted by two swatting incidents, where armed police rushed to the scene after receiving hoax calls about people shot there. Her team has requested U.S. Secret Service protection.


Haley likely has the resources to stay in the race for several more weeks, based on the fundraising figures her campaign has disclosed. Her campaign said on Monday that it had raised $16.5 million in January, including $11.7 million from “grassroots supporters.” That is more than it raised in the second and third quarters of 2023.

Some major Haley donors have ended their support since her loss to Trump in the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 23 or indicated it will be winding down. An advisor to Reid Hoffman, the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn, told Reuters he was pausing his support after her New Hampshire loss, while metals magnate Andy Sabin said she needed to drop out.

Others, like venture capitalist Tim Draper, have said they are sticking by her. Several of her contributors told Reuters they appreciate her willingness to stand up to Trump, even if her odds are exceedingly long. Others say she needs to keep racking up delegates so she emerges as the back-up plan to face Democratic President Joe Biden in the November general election, in case Trump’s legal issues catch up with him.

At the recent event in Hilton Head, an affluent seaside resort town popular with vacationers and retirees, a group of demonstrators waved Trump flags outside the restaurant where Haley spoke and a heckler interrupted her speech at one point before being escorted out.

Many grassroots backers, however, made it clear they want Haley to stay in the race. While her crowds were notably smaller than those at Trump events, voters filled a high-school auditorium for her rally in Lancaster last week, and the bar where she made her Hilton Head stop was standing room only.

One supporter, Patricia Shapiro, a 68-year-old physician, said she was upset that Republican leaders were trying to force Haley from the race after just two states – Iowa and New Hampshire – had cast ballots.

“This is supposed to be an election,” she said. “This is not supposed to be turning it off after the first two primaries.”

Another supporter, Kim Barch, said that whether or not Haley wins in South Carolina, she should keep campaigning so voters at least have a choice.

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“This isn’t a coronation,” Barch added. “I think she needs to go a little bit further.”

TAGS: Donald Trump, Elections, Nikki Haley, Republican, US

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