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Haley to continue uphill battle despite poor performance in primaries


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NIKKI HALEY finished a disappointing third in the Iowa Republican nominating contest and a distant second in New Hampshire, while in Nevada – where she was the only candidate in last week’s primary – she finished behind ballots marked “none of these candidates.”

And if opinion polls are correct, the 52-year-old former South Carolina governor faces a certain defeat to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, 77, in her home state on February 24.

However, despite her performance to date and no sign of a clear path to overtaking the former president in the race, some donors are continuing to bankroll her.

During a two-day swing through California last week, she raked in $1.7 million (£1.35m), said her campaign.

The financial spigots remain open in part because donors believe Trump’s multiple criminal cases could yet end up pushing him out of the race, according to interviews with around a dozen donors, fundraisers and advisers to donors.

“Haley needs to keep adding delegates and either persuade primary voters to support her or be there when Trump stumbles,” said New York-based donor Eric Levine.

The former envoy to the UN has been abandoned by allies and become an outsider in her own party, but Haley is still standing, for now, defying seemingly impossible odds to stay in the race against 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 D o n a l d Trump,” he added. “I think she’s comfortable in that role as an underdog, even if the political class lined up against her.”

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.

Her 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 blasted Trump – who dismisses her as a “bird-brain” – for spending $50 million (£39.7m) 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 who is 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 February 24, where she trails by more than 30 percentage points.

“Trump can have ‘em.”

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 last Wednesday (7). “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.”

Last Thursday (8), 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.

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 effectively isolated.

The decisions in late January by US Senator Tim Scott and US 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 US 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 favourite 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 US 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 last week that it had raised $16.5m (£13.1m) in January, including $11.7m (£9.29m) 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 January 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.

Many grassroots backers, however, made it clear they want Haley to stay in the race. While her crowds were 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. (Reuters)



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