Nikki Haley Tells Voters: Dump Trump Baggage
“While we have their back now that they’ve been hit, what’s more important is that we have their back when they hit back,” Haley said at a New Hampshire town hall sponsored by the USA TODAY Network.
The former ambassador to the United Nations said Hamas must be eliminated and “we need to remember who the true backer of all this is – Iran.”
Haley, who served under Trump, also went after her former boss who, at a rally Wednesday, called Hezbollah – an ally of Hamas – “very smart.” And Trump said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “let us down” just before the U.S. killed a top Iranian general in 2020.
Haley said such comments are why it’s time for a new generation of leaders to “leave the negativity and chaos and the baggage” in the past.
“We can’t have someone who is so clouded with the past that they can’t see the future,” she said to whistles and applause. “Donald Trump was the right president at the right time. I don’t think he’s the right president now.”
After strong performances in the first two GOP debates, Haley has jumped in the polls, including in a recent USA TODAY/Boston Globe/Suffolk University survey of likely New Hampshire voters.
She surged ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who lost the standing he once held as the dominant alternative to Trump.
But the 19% of likely New Hampshire voters who backed Haley is still far behind the 49% supporting former President Donald Trump.
Still, Trump has shifted his focus from attacking DeSantis to going after Haley.
‘Has what it takes?’
Janet Jenkins, a retired teacher from Southbridge, Mass., drove two hours with her husband to Exeter, N.H., to hear Haley speak.
“I just think she has what it takes,” said Jenkins, who has read two of Haley’s books. “I like her demeanor, the way she talks.”
What both Janet and her husband, Bob, most wanted to hear from Haley was how she thought she could win the nomination.
“Trump is so far ahead,” Bob Jenkins said.
Haley has recently expanded her operations in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
She stood out from the field with aggressive debate appearances that included criticizing Trump for adding to the national debt and telling entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, “Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”
In a party that hasn’t unified beyond a position on a national abortion ban, Haley argues the focus should be on areas where Democrats and Republicans can find common ground.
“Stop demonizing this issue,” she said. “We have to humanize it.”
She also went after both parties for not addressing major problems facing the country. Minutes into her remarks, she said her party shares some of the blame for the federal debt.
“You don’t fix Democratic chaos with Republican chaos,” she said later in the town hall. “We need stability. We need focus. We need discipline.”
That message appealed to Dixy Scott, 78, an independent from Raymond, NH who has been turned off by Republicans since Trump came on the scene.
“She’s given me hope,” Scott said of Haley.