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Defiant Haley insists she doesn’t fear Trump’s retribution as she vows ‘I’m not going anywhere’

Republican challenger cites dissatisfaction with both Trump and Biden as a reson for her staying

Eric Garcia
Tuesday 20 February 2024 22:43 GMT
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Nikki Haley doubles down on vow she will stay in presidential race

Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley delivered a defiant speech ahead of her home state’s primary on Saturday and insisted that she will not quit the 2024 race even if she loses her home state’s primary this Saturday.

Ms Haley, who won two terms as governor of South Carolina, insisted that even if she loses, she does not fear former president Donald Trump’s retribution.

“That’s why I refuse to quit. South Carolina will vote on Saturday. But on Sunday, I’ll still be running for president. I’m not going anywhere,” she said at a speech in Greenville on Tuesday.

Ms Haley, who served as US ambassador to the United Nations in Mr Trump’s administration, criticised his attempt to limit the primary, citing how 49 per cent of voters in Iowa voted for someone other than the former president and 46 per cent of voters in New Hampshire supported someone other than him.

“I feel no need to kiss the ring,” she said. “And I have no fear of Trump’s retribution. I’m not looking for anything from him. My own political future is of zero concern.”

Despite her previous political success in the Palmetto State, Ms Haley trails Mr Trump by a significant margin in South Carolina. During her address Tuesday, she also pushed back on accusations that she was running to be Mr Trump’s running mate or to tee up a future presidential run.

“If I was running for a bogus reason, I would have dropped out a long time ago,” she said. Ms Haley also pointed to a critique that former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who ended his campaign in January, made; that many Republicans secretly fear Mr Trump.

But Ms Haley also pushed back against accusations that she is a “Never Trump” conservative, pointing to her service in his administration and her critiques of President Joe Biden.

“My purpose has never been to stop Trump at all costs,” she said. “Like most Americans, I have a handful of serious concerns about the former President. But I have countless serious concerns about the current president.”

Ms Haley highlighted the fact that only three states – Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada – have voted so far.

“People have a right to have their voices heard,” she said. “And they deserve a real choice, not a Soviet-style election where there’s only one candidate and he gets 99 per cent of the vote. We don’t anoint kings in this country. We have elections. And Donald Trump, of all people, should know we don’t rig elections!”

But Ms Haley has failed to put up a significant fight against Mr Trump, having placed third in Iowa. In Nevada’s primary, more voters picked “None of these candidates” than Ms Haley.

Still, she also dropped an ad ahead of Michigan’s primary saying “Biden’s too old and Congress is the most exclusive nursing home in America.” She also called for mental competency tests for the presidency.

Ms Haley has also campaigned in California and Texas, both of which have their contests on Super Tuesday on 4 March.

The speech also included some of her sharpest criticisms of Mr Trump, specifically hitting him saying that he would “encourage” Russia to invade Nato countries and for his multiple legal battles.

“It’s not normal to insult our military heroes and veterans,” she said. “It’s not normal to spend fifty million dollars in campaign donations on personal court cases. It’s not normal to threaten the people who back your opponent. And it’s not normal to call on Russia to invade Nato countries. Donald Trump has done all that and more in just the last month.”

At the same time, she criticised Mr Biden and noted how most voters do not want a 2020 rematch between Mr Trump and Mr Biden.

“As a country, we’ve never seen such dissatisfaction with the leading candidates,” she said. “We’ve never had so many Americans mired in pessimism and division.”

Ms Haley closed by citing her husband Michael’s military service. Mr Trump has previously mocked Mr Haley’s absence as he serves abroad.

“Michael is fighting for the country he loves,” she said, choking up at points when talking about his service. “So are all his brothers-and-sisters-in-arms, wherever they’re stationed in our dangerous world. They have made their stand because America is worth fighting and even dying for. Now I will continue to make my stand because America is worth living for.”

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