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Nikki Haley Solidifies Support as Trump’s Top 2024 Rival

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Nikki Haley is gaining ground fast against Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Her campaign is rapidly gaining support among Republicans seeking an alternative to Trump

Riding a wave of swelling poll numbers and overflow crowds, Haley sets her sights on Trump’s top rival, Ron DeSantis. 

Momentum builds as GOP donors and power brokers conspire to boost their would-be usurper. Haley walks a political tightrope, courting loyal Trumpers while offering disenchanted defectors a new vision.

Haley is eyeing the throne but for now Trump remains the kingmaker. Her path to unseat him is extraordinarily narrow. Though boosted by intrigue and resources, Haley still needs to convert interest into primary votes.

For now, this determined political contender advances steadily onto Trump’s turf, determined to shake up the race. But usurping the GOP crown will be her greatest challenge yet.

Does the former South Carolina governor have what it takes to dethrone the king and reshape the GOP in her image?

Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign seems to be rapidly gaining support among Republicans looking for someone other than Donald Trump to be their nominee in 2024.

Just two years after Haley said she wouldn’t challenge Trump for the nomination, the former South Carolina governor and Trump administration official is now positioning herself as the leader of the anti-Trump wing of the party.

In recent weeks, Haley appears to be attracting growing enthusiasm from Republicans across multiple factions who are uncertain about Trump’s candidacy. Her campaign events in critical early voting states like New Hampshire and Iowa have had large turnouts, with overflow rooms needed at some venues. 

In polling, Haley has now overtaken potential rival Ron DeSantis in New Hampshire and South Carolina while nearly tying him in Iowa.

“Nikki Haley is certainly locking up a lot of the Never Trumpers,” said veteran Republican operative Matthew Bartlett, who is not affiliated with any presidential campaign this cycle. “She also seems to have real room to grow.”

Several key groups seem to be coalescing around Haley. Donors preparing to host Haley in New York on December 4th notably include two people with ties to billionaire Paul Singer, who has been critical of Trump in the past. Greg Wendt, a former supporter of Senator Tim Scott who has donated to moderate, anti-Trump Republicans like John Kasich and John McCain, is also now said to be expressing interest in Haley. This comes from a New York City-based Republican fundraiser granted anonymity to candidly discuss private conversations.

This potentially shows Haley consolidating financial backing from moderate and establishment Republicans looking for a candidate other than Trump.

“Never Trumpers and ‘Anybody but Trumpers’ are really consolidating around her from a financial standpoint,” said Doug Gross, a former chief of staff to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. Gross now plans to caucus for Haley after spending months surveying the field in search of a candidate besides Trump. 

Carmine Boal, a former Iowa state lawmaker who is now backing Haley said “I was kind of vacillating between three or four different people,”  “The only thing I knew was I would not support Trump in the caucuses…I think Haley will do well with the independents, particularly suburban women. And everyone knows elections are won or lost by the independent vote.”

Boal seems to demonstrate Haley’s potential traction with swing voters who want a mainstream conservative option instead of Trump in the 2024 general election.

Despite these gains, Nikki Haley still faces steep challenges in overtaking Trump, who remains the clear leader among Republican primary voters nationally. She appears to be consolidating the anti-Trump faction, but that group still makes up a minority within the broader GOP electorate.

“It’s a lot of the old-school Republicans who did not like Trump, but voted for him the first time with their fingers crossed, and then refused to vote for him a second time,” said Sarah Longwell, an anti-Trump Republican who regularly conducts focus groups with GOP voters.

Longwell notes that this is still a very narrow niche for Haley to fill, saying “I do think most people seem aware that her path to the nomination is an extraordinarily narrow one. I mean, extraordinarily narrow.”

In an effort to expand her appeal, Haley seems to be attempting to reach both pro-Trump Republicans and more moderate voters. After giving ambiguous answers on abortion rights earlier in the campaign, she recently voiced support for a six-week abortion ban at a conservative evangelical event in Iowa.

“Where her support comes from are people who are ‘Maybe Trump,’ the people who voted for Trump twice, would vote for him against Joe Biden in a heartbeat, but are open to other options,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres.

This indicates Haley may be pursuing a strategy of keeping space open for varying opinions on Trump while signaling conservative stances on issues like abortion to reassure the Republican base.

Nikki Haley’s relationship with Donald Trump and his supporters has gone through several profound shifts over the past eight years. As governor of South Carolina in 2016 during the Republican primaries, Haley was a vocal critic of Trump’s candidacy for president. She put her support behind Marco Rubio and spoke out against Trump becoming the party’s nominee.

However, after Trump’s election victory, Haley’s appointment as UN Ambassador markedly changed her posture toward him. Serving in his administration, she developed a much more positive relationship with the now-President Trump. Haley even included glowing praise of Trump in her 2018 memoir that she published after leaving her Ambassador post, reflecting their improved dynamic.

In the aftermath of the January 6th Capitol riots in 2021, Haley again condemned Trump’s words and actions leading up to the violence. She criticized decisions he made while in office that she felt contributed to the political divisions in the country. This signaled a return to her previous skepticism of Trump’s leadership within the party.

Yet in more recent months, Haley’s messaging has flipped once more to emphasize the need for Trump’s continued involvement in the Republican Party. She declared conservatives “need him in the Republican Party,” despite her previous misgivings.

Now on the 2024 presidential campaign trail, Nikki Haley seems to be trying to carefully walk a tightrope between Trump’s ardent supporters who comprise the base, and moderate or anti-Trump factions looking for an alternative.

She repeatedly states that Trump was the “right president at the right time,” highlighting aspects of his administration’s policies she agrees with to appeal to his base. But she also criticizes his personality and some foreign policy decisions to signal space from Trump to anti-Trump voters.

While Haley is attracting some “Never Trump” Republican support, she does not campaign as adamantly anti-Trump. She seems to understand the need to tread carefully, not directly alienating pro-Trump primary voters who still dominate the party.

This complex history illuminates Haley’s delicate political dance regarding Trump. She has modulated between criticizing and praising him over time depending on her role. 

Her fluid positioning demonstrates the difficult balancing act she now faces on the campaign trail to loosely appeal to both Trump devotees and dissenters within the divided GOP.

According to reports, Nikki Haley has massive ad spending planned versus DeSantis in the early voting states. Her campaign has booked $4.2 million for ads in Iowa and New Hampshire before the New Hampshire primary, while her super PAC has reserved another $3.8 million.

In contrast, DeSantis has only booked $1.5 million so far for Iowa TV ads himself for that same timeframe. His super PAC’s heavy anti-Haley ad spending in Iowa was reportedly pulled back because it failed to resonate with voters.

“There is a growing consensus that Nikki Haley is the best challenger to take on Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” said Haley campaign spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas. “This is a two-person race – between one man and one woman.”

With this statement, Haley’s campaign openly asserts she has overtaken DeSantis as Trump’s principal rival, calling it a two-way race between Trump and herself.

In the end, Nikki Haley appears to be gaining momentum with the anti-Trump segment of the GOP. While still facing a difficult path given Trump’s continued strong support, she has garnered increasing financial backing, endorsements, and voter interest from Republicans across the spectrum looking for an alternative. 

Her evolving strategy attempts to broaden her appeal from moderates to the conservative base. With sizable ad buys and recent polls in her favor, Haley is working to cement her status as Trump’s top challenger for the nomination. However, converting general anti-Trump feelings into primary votes remains an uphill climb.

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