Haley making final stand against Trump one year after launching GOP presidential bid

Nikki Haley Orangeburg SC Feb. 11 2024

One year to the day after formally declaring her candidacy for the White House, Nikki Haley is the last remaining major rival to former President Donald Trump in the race for the 2024 Republican nomination.

“America is not past our prime, it’s just that our politicians are past theirs,” Haley said on Feb. 15, 2023, taking shots at both Trump, who’s now 77, and President Biden, who’s 81.

Haley, a former two-term South Carolina governor who later served as U.N. ambassador in the Trump administration, launched her campaign in front of a large crowd of supporters in Charleston. She was the first of the major challengers to Trump to enter the 2024 race, and a year later she’s the final one standing.

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Former U.N. ambassador and former two-term South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley formally launched her 2024 Republican presidential campaign on Feb. 15, 2023, in Charleston, South Carolina. (Fox News – Paul  Steinhauser)

Nikki Haley 2024 Charleston S.C.

“One year ago, there were 13 fellas in the race and we were polling at 2%. But we knew what we were fighting for: a strong and proud America. And now, one year later, we’re back in my sweet state of South Carolina and we’re ready to bring it home!,” Haley said Thursday on social media.

But with nine days to go until the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, Haley faces a steep uphill climb for the nomination against Trump, the commanding frontrunner as he makes his third straight White House run.

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Trump grabbed a majority of the votes last month in Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary victories, and won by a landslide last week in the Nevada and U.S. Virgin Island caucuses. And with nine days to go until the Feb. 24 South Carolina primary, the latest public opinion surveys suggest the former president holds a very large double-digit lead over Haley in her home state.

“She’s getting clobbered,” Trump emphasized Wednesday night at a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina. “She’s finished.”

Trump holds a large lead over Haley in the latest South Carolina GOP presidential primary polls

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Charleston Area Convention Center in North Charleston, South Carolina, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/David Yeazell)

But Haley, who has been campaigning vigorously in her home state and kicked off a bus tour this past weekend as early voting in the Republican primary got underway, has repeatedly said she doesn’t need to win her home state. 

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“Success means being competitive. Closing the gap. Making sure we can continue to go forward as we go into Super Tuesday,” Haley stressed in a Fox News Digital interview two weeks ago in Columbia, South Carolina.

“It’s just about keeping that momentum going. We got 20% in Iowa. We got 43% in New Hampshire. Let’s bring it a little bit closer so that we can get closer in to him [Trump] and make it more competitive going into Super Tuesday,” she added.

Nikki Haley faces a steep uphill climb to knock off Donald Trump in South Carolina

Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at the Orangeburg Mall Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Orangeburg, South Carolina, The state’s Republicans will participate in their primary on Feb. 24. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

Haley is taking a short break from her South Carolina stumping to head to Texas on Thursday and Friday for fundraisers and to campaign in one of the 15 states holding Republican nominating contests on Super Tuesday in early March.

Haley hauled in $1.7 million in fundraising – as Fox News first reported – during a two-day campaign swing last week in California, another large Super Tuesday state. The stops in Texas and California appear in part to be a marker for Haley as she pushes back against calls by some Republicans to drop out of the race and allow Trump to focus on facing off with Biden in November.

“I’m in this for the long haul,” Haley emphasized at a campaign rally last week in Los Angeles.

And Haley reiterated to Fox News Digital that “our focus is on South Carolina, Michigan, Super Tuesday.”

Michigan holds its primary on Tuesday, Feb. 27, three days after South Carolina.

Longtime Republican consultant David Carney, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns, noted that “people support Haley. No question about it. And she’ll raise money. No question about it.”

But Carney, who remains neutral in the 2024 GOP nomination race, emphasized, “I don’t see any pathway” for Haley.

Pointing to rules in many of the March 5 GOP contests that award the candidate who tops 50% either statewide or in congressional districts the lion’s share of delegates, Carney predicted that, for Haley, “Super Tuesday will be really painful.”

Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire. 

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