- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Nikki Haley’s announcement Tuesday that she is diving into the 2024 presidential race has brought an official end to former President Donald Trump’s time as the sole candidate for the Republican Party nomination.

Mrs. Haley plans to hold campaign events this week in her home state of South Carolina and the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire. She will then go to Iowa, the host of the caucuses that kick off the nomination battle.

She did not mention Mr. Trump or any potential rivals in her launch video, but she drove home a point that it is time for a fresh slate of leaders and warned that she knows how to hit back.

“You should know this about me: I don’t put up with bullies. And when you kick back, it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels,” she said.

Mrs. Haley said Republicans lost the popular vote in seven out of the past eight presidential elections and “that has to change.”

“Joe Biden’s record is abysmal, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Washington establishment has failed us over and over and over again,” she said. “It’s time for a new generation of leadership to rediscover fiscal responsibility, secure our border, and strengthen our country, our pride and our purpose.”

The video previewed the message Mrs. Haley plans to deliver Wednesday at her official launch event in Charleston, South Carolina.

An ambassador to the United Nations under Mr. Trump and a former South Carolina governor, Mrs. Haley is among a group of lesser-known, less-hyped Republicans who have tested the waters and would start their campaigns as underdogs.

Mr. Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are considered a cut above the rest.

Top tier: Don and Ron

Mr. Trump entered the race in November a week after another disappointing Election Day for Republicans. The former president’s top picks lost winnable Senate races, leaving Democrats in control of the chamber.

Although Mr. Trump remains the center of gravity in the Republican Party, his age, his political baggage and the party’s struggles at the ballot box on his watch might weigh on voters. Mr. Trump is 76, and Mrs. Haley is 51.

Mr. DeSantis, 44, has generated buzz in the Republican ranks and is expected to enter the race after the Florida Legislature adjourns.

It’s not clear how the DeSantis brand will resonate on the national stage.

Mr. DeSantis, a former U.S. House member who won his second term as governor in November, is signaling that he would build a message on the idea that his fights for conservative policies have allowed Florida to flourish and that he could duplicate his successes on the national stage.

Mr. Trump is trying to sully the popular governor’s image and trip him up with an exchange of verbal attacks.

Mr. DeSantis has refused to take the bait.

Instead, he has highlighted his 19-percentage-point victory in the November election and recently said, “I don’t spend my time trying to smear other Republicans.”

Haley and the others

The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Mr. Trump leading Mr. DeSantis by a 48.3% to 29.7 % margin, followed by former Vice President Mike Pence, 7%; Mrs. Haley, 3.7%; and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, 3%.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina barely register.

Other potential White House aspirants include Govs. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, and former Govs. Larry Hogan of Maryland and Chris Christie of New Jersey.

Govs. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Greg Abbott of Texas have refused to rule out bids.

Among Democrats, President Biden has said he intends to run but hasn’t made it official.

Early state action picks up

Mr. Pence, 63, is slated to be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday after a stop in Minneapolis, where he will advocate for strengthening parents’ say in education and push against policies “that indoctrinate children.”

If Mr. Pence does run as expected, he will be seeking to become the first Republican vice president since George H.W. Bush in 1988 to make the jump to the presidency.

Since leaving the White House, Mr. Pence has sought to bridge the Make America Great Again movement with traditional conservatism.

He has heralded the accomplishments of the Trump-Pence administration and slapped down Mr. Trump’s claim that he could have overturned the results of the 2020 election via the vice president’s role overseeing the counting of electoral votes.

Mr. Pence might delay an announcement until early summer, said people familiar with his thinking.

Mr. Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, is preparing to launch a “Faith in America” listening tour that includes a stop in Charleston on Thursday and stops in Iowa next week. He is one of the most popular members of the Senate, where he has developed a reputation as a happy warrior for the conservative cause.

“We need an optimistic, positive message that brings our country back together,” Mr. Scott said Tuesday on Fox News.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to meet this week with elected leaders and key stakeholders in Iowa.

“Iowans set the tone in our electoral process and their voice is one that anyone contemplating higher office should not only seek out, but carefully listen to,” Mr. Hutchinson said in a press release. “Our country is on the wrong path.”

In her launch video, Mrs. Haley told stories about her upbringing as the daughter of Indian immigrants and touched on some of her experiences as an ambassador and governor, including the 2015 mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

Mrs. Haley said she helped bolster South Carolina’s economy and ushered in a new era of politics in the state after voters “threw out the old, tired political establishment.”

• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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