Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley acknowledged on Jan. 28 that she needs to achieve a better showing in the Republican presidential primary in her home state of South Carolina than she did in New Hampshire to keep her campaign going.
Ms. Haley, who lost both previous contests by double-digit margins, is the only prominent GOP challenger still running against former President Donald Trump.
In Iowa, Ms. Haley came in third with less than 20 percent support, while President Trump won 51 percent of the vote. Ms. Haley nevertheless declared it a two-person contest with President Trump, even as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was still in the race. Gov. DeSantis dropped his White House bid just before the New Hampshire primary.
In New Hampshire, with most other contenders out of play, Ms. Haley did significantly better, achieving 43.2 percent of the vote—although roughly 70 percent of that tally came from non-Republicans. President Trump again defeated Ms. Haley by a double-digit margin.
Ms. Haley has remained in the race, emphasizing that she’s designing her campaign around building momentum as the contests continue. Besides, she insists that the race is closer than pundits are letting on.
“It’s 1,215 delegates to reach the nomination,” Ms. Haley told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Jan. 28. “Donald Trump has 32. I have 17.”
Ms. Haley also said she needs to do better in South Carolina than she did in New Hampshire to remain viable—but demurred from saying that she needs to win the state.
When asked about this by anchor Kristen Welker, she was evasive.
Instead of directly answering the question, she went into a diatribe against President Trump’s South Carolina backers, including South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and many lawmakers in the state.
Their endorsement of President Trump over her was because of lingering animosity over the actions she took to win the gubernatorial race in South Carolina and what she did afterward, Ms. Haley suggested.
“Yes, he got the endorsement of the governor, but that’s the same governor that I defeated when I ran for governor,” she said. “Yes, he got the endorsement of the political class in South Carolina but that’s the same group that I forced to have to show their votes on the record. It’s the same group that I forced to pass ethics reform where they had to disclose their income.
“There’s no surprise there that the political elite are surrounding him there, he has become—Trump has become an insider. That’s what it comes down to, is he’s more interested in satisfying the elected class than he is in satisfying the people.”
Later, Ms. Welker pushed the point.
“Let me just make sure we get an answer, though, Ambassador Haley. … Do you need to win your home state in order to stay in this race? Is it do or die?”
Ms. Haley replied, “I think I need to do better than I did in New Hampshire. So this is a building situation.”
This would show that she’s “building momentum,” she said.
“I need to show that I’m stronger in South Carolina than in New Hampshire,” Ms. Haley said. “Does that have to be a win? I don’t think that necessarily has to be a win. But it certainly has to be better than what I did in New Hampshire and it certainly has to be close.”
Haley Will Stay Until Super Tuesday
But Ms. Haley indicated that no matter what happens in South Carolina, she’ll be in the race until Super Tuesday.
March 5 will involve a series of primaries and caucuses across 16 states and territories and is one of the most important days of the political year.
“Are you in this race through the convention beyond Super Tuesday? Yes or No?” Ms. Welker asked.
“As long as I keep growing per state, I am in this race,” Ms. Haley said. “I have every intention of going to Super Tuesday. … We’re going to keep on going and see where this gets us.”
Despite her optimism, she has a tough road ahead.
In South Carolina, the next state where Ms. Haley and President Trump will go head-to-head, President Trump currently enjoys a 30-point lead, according to RealClearPolitics averages.
In Nevada, he’s running effectively unopposed because of a spat between the state and the Republican National Committee.
The situation is much the same on the national level, where RealClearPolitics averages show President Trump leading by a 57-point margin.
Despite Ms. Haley’s expressions of optimism, President Trump is seen as the clear frontrunner, with many declaring the primaries already effectively over.