As the seven Republican candidates seeking their party’s nomination against former president Donald Trump prepare to take the debate stage in Simi Valley, California this week, one of them is riding a wave of momentum.
Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley – who served two years as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations – is the candidate on the move in the GOP presidential primary.
Buoyed by a strong showing in the latest “First in the South” polls from her home state of South Carolina, Haley entered debate week with another boost – a resounding showing in the latest “First in the Nation” poll in early-voting New Hampshire.
According to a new poll conducted by Saint Anselm College, Haley is now leading the field of Trump challengers.
“In the wake of the first Republican presidential candidate debate, Haley has moved into second place behind Trump,” the pollsters noted. “She is now the leading alternative to Trump.”
Haley drew the support of 15 percent of likely primary voters, according to the survey – ahead of Florida governor Ron DeSantis (11 percent) and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (10 percent). Haley also had the second highest net-positive favorability of any candidate (65 percent to 28 percent), which suggests “she has room to grow her support.”
To be clear: Trump is still running away with this race. The presumptive nominee is backed by 45 percent of the primary electorate in New Hampshire. Assuming that support holds, Trump would remain unbeatable in the Granite State – and elsewhere.
“As in 2016, opposition to Trump is diluted over several candidates, preventing the consolidation that would be necessary to deny him a third straight nomination,” said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
Haley’s momentum is not surprising. She’s run an aggressive, intelligent campaign.
“Say what you will about Haley – and this news outlet has said plenty – but the fact remains she is simply outworking her rivals,” I noted recently. “And running a smarter campaign.”
Haley also appears to have successfully deflected criticism of her her self-serving, opportunistic machinating on key foreign policy planks – while at the same time positioning herself as a thoughtful leader on big ticket items like entitlement reform.
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Will any of that put her within striking distance of Trump? Doubtful … but should anything happen to the former president (which is not out of the realm of possibility for many reasons), she is clearly in position to become the frontrunner for the nomination.
Haley and six other GOP hopefuls will take the stage for their second debate on Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. As our political columnist Mark Powell noted earlier today, the stakes are high.
“With the primary voting season now visibly on the horizon, time is no longer a candidate’s friend,” Powell wrote. “It’s crunch time, people. Every day matters, and every bit of media exposure must count.”
Republicans’ primary process begins with the Iowa Caucus on January 15, 2024. New Hampshire’s primary comes eight days later (January 23, 2024) followed by Nevada (February 8, 2024) and South Carolina (February 24, 2024). As for Democrats, they are currently scheduled to kick off their primary process in the Palmetto State on February 3, 2024 followed by New Hampshire and Nevada (February 6, 2024), Georgia (February 13, 2024) and Michigan (February 27, 2024).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
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