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HomeHeadline newsTrump-weary voters warm to ex-governor, Nikki Haley

Trump-weary voters warm to ex-governor, Nikki Haley

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NIKKI HALEY has risen in opinion polls in recent months, largely on the back of college-educated, affluent, suburban professionals, many of whom have tired of Donald Trump’s rhetoric and legal troubles.

If the former South Carolina governor is to ascend any further and have a real shot at beating Trump in the 2024 Republican nominating contest, supporters and opponents said she must expand that coalition – and quickly.

That means pulling in more voters who live in rural areas, are middle- or working-class, or lack college degrees, according to eight pollsters and strategists interviewed by Reuters.

Some are affiliated with the Haley nomination effort and some are independent.

Ahead of the Republican nominating kick-off in Iowa on January 15, Haley has been travelling to Trump-friendly territory in the state.

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She launched a “Farmers for Nikki” coalition in November, while her campaign and its allies blanketed the airwaves with ads in rural areas in an effort to build her name recognition and broaden her appeal.

Trump leads his Republican rivals in Iowa with about 50 per cent support, polls show. Haley, who was UN ambassador under the former president, is in a close third place behind Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

Her numbers moved up in recent weeks while DeSantis, once seen as a serious threat to Trump, has faltered.

“The area I grew up in was much like Iowa,” Haley told an audience in the town of Sioux Center. “I grew up playing in a cotton field and in a dairy farm.”

She talked at length about shortcomings in the public healthcare system for America’s veterans, which caters disproportionately to rural Americans.

While she has stepped up her criticisms of Trump in recent months, she did not bring him up much on the trail.

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll released in December, Trump led the Republican field nationally with 61 per cent support, while Haley and DeSantis both stood at 11 per cent.

Haley scooped up around a fifth of college-educated Republicans, while also outperforming among suburbanites.

About seven in 10 Republicans without a college degree backed Trump.

Internal polling from SFA, one of the outside PACs supporting Haley, also indicates she is outperforming him in high-income, college-educated and suburban areas, according to an official there, who asked for anonymity to discuss private polling and campaign strategy.

That official said Haley has room to grow with rural and non-college voters as they start to become more familiar with her candidacy.

SFA has spent more than $25 million (£20m) on ads and mailings backing her White House run since September, when Haley began gaining traction among some major donors, and mid-December, according to disclosures made to the Federal Election Commission.

“Nikki isn’t taking any voter for granted,” said Olivia PerezCubas, a campaign spokesperson. “She’s travelling across Iowa holding town halls, answering every question.”

In New Hampshire, which will hold its primary a week after the Iowa caucuses and is a significantly more affluent state, Haley is a clear second, behind Trump. In an internal poll conducted in mid-December by AFP Action, a political advocacy organisation supporting Haley, she is statistically tied with Trump in a theoretical head-to-head match up there.

DeSantis campaign officials say Haley would fail to beat Trump in a one-on-one race because she does not appeal to voters who still admire the former president.

Interviews with 20 people at Haley’s events in northwestern Iowa showed she was drawing voters who were ready to move on from Trump, along with some still willing to consider him.

Of the 10 who wanted to move on, all were leaning toward Haley. Of the 10 who were still open to the former president, some preferred Haley, some preferred DeSantis and others said they would likely stick with Trump.

(Reuters)

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