As Haley rises, the clock is ticking to defeat Trump | ET REALITY


In the race for the Republican nomination, even five-inch stilettos might not be enough to overcome the towering figure of Donald J. Trump.

For the third time Wednesday night, Nikki Haley received praise for her skillful performance on the Republican primary debate stage.

Over the course of the two-hour showdown, Haley showed off her foreign policy credentials, fended off attacks on her record and even transformed her shoes into a campaign weapon. When Vivek Ramaswamy, Haley’s most aggressive antagonist, mocked her as “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels,” Haley was ready to one-up herself.

Literally, at least, if not figuratively.

“They’re five-inch heels,” she said, standing tall in her black pointe shoes. “And they are not a fashion statement. “They are for ammunition.”

Still, months of campaigning, a series of strong debates, healthy campaign accounts and rising poll numbers in early voting states have not been enough to put Haley within striking distance of Trump, who remains the dominant front-runner. . . While support for Haley has increased, particularly in Iowa, voters have not yet flocked to her candidacy in overwhelming numbers. Several megadonors have adopted a wait-and-see strategy, keeping an eye on Ms. Haley but staying on the sidelines.

Now, just under 10 weeks before Iowa voters cast their first ballots in the caucuses there, the clock is ticking.

“The momentum is clearly there, but it’s a very elusive thing,” said Kevin Madden, a former Republican operative who worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 and 2008 presidential campaigns. “How do you turn this into an avalanche: 1,236 delegates for secure the nomination at the convention? The plan for this has not yet been revealed.”

Haley’s supporters say Wednesday’s performance should help her keep moving forward, attracting major donors and winning support among voters eager for an alternative to Trump..

Fred Zeidman, a Texas businessman who has been one of Haley’s biggest fundraisers since the beginning, said he received calls Wednesday night from people who were “ready to get out their checkbooks.”

On stage, he displayed his “substantive” knowledge of political issues and remained calm “even when Vivek tested his mettle,” he said.

Beyond her clashes with Ramaswamy, Haley took advantage of opportunities to demonstrate her foreign policy experience and political acumen and continue making her speech in the general election. As her male opponents attempted to soften her tone on abortion (the debate came a day after Democrats successfully leveraged the issue against Republican candidates in this week’s off-year elections), Ms. Haley simply repeated the conciliatory message of compassion that you have been pushing. months.

And when it came to international affairs, he offered a retort that none of his rivals could match. When DeSantis said that as president he would “tell” Benjamin Netanyahu to eliminate Hamas after the horrific Oct. 7 attack, Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, immediately made it clear that she had already delivered the message. . Message to the Israeli Prime Minister.

“The first thing I told him when it happened was, ‘Finish them,’” Haley said.

However, Haley faces a significant promotion. A recent one iowa survey had Ms. Haley tied with 16 percent support with Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, with Mr. Trump 27 points ahead. Part of his challenge is the sheer number of candidates, which has made it more difficult for a single candidate to consolidate support for him. And many donors, of course, have stuck with Trump: On Thursday, Bernie Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, who had not committed to matching his previous financial support of the former president, announced that he would back his third presidential bid. .

Haley’s supporters say the race remains fluid and there is still time for the field to clear for a showdown between Haley and Trump in South Carolina, her home state and third on the nominating calendar. They believe Haley can emerge as the central alternative to Trump, even if his main primary rival, DeSantis, remains in the race.

A tight second place finish – or even capturing the largest share of the vote in Iowa after Trump – could catapult Haley into New Hampshire and the elections that follow, attracting new support and causing some rivals to withdraw, her advisers and surrogates argue.

Ms. Haley’s team has been trying to take advantage of her unique profile. The only woman on stage, she stands out by definition.

Campaign aides and their surrogates describe women as some of their most critical enthusiastic boosters, donors and volunteers. “Women for Nikki” groups have been expanding across the country since they began their campaign in February, relying largely on word of mouth and friends reaching out to friends, volunteers and campaign aides said. They now include spin-off products for young mothers, students and military wives.

“This is driven by momentum because of who she is and how she connects with people,” said Jennifer Nassour, regional co-chair of the “Women for Nikki” coalition.

On the campaign trail, both men and women are quick to express enthusiasm for the prospect of a first female president, but they argue that Haley’s qualifications, competence and projection of calm in the face of chaos are driving their support.

“I want to see a woman who fights for our country and puts it first, and that’s what she did when she was at the UN, and I think that’s what she will do,” said Noel Searles, 75, a salesman. retired. manager who recently overheard her speaking at a restaurant in Londonderry, NH

However, in some ways, Haley has become trapped in a circular cycle. Some of the GOP’s biggest donors have been cautious, expressing interest but wanting to see if she can garner enough support among primary voters to make a serious run against Trump. Haley’s supporters argue that the backing of the party’s major donors could help her solidify her support by pushing some rivals away from her.

As the race gets closer to Iowa, one advantage Haley has is money. Between July 1 and the end of September (the most recent figures available in federal campaign finance filings) she raised $11 million among her political committees, a steady increase over the previous two quarters.

What’s more, his campaign has kept costs low: In the third quarter, his campaign spent $3.5 million, about 43 cents of every dollar it received. This is in stark contrast to Sen. Tim Scott’s presidential campaign, which spent $2.70 of every dollar he received. received, and the DeSantis campaign, whose spending slowed during the quarter but still leveled off by spending nearly every dollar he received.

As of Thursday, the campaign had not gained any advertising time. (A super PAC backing Ms. Haley has spent more than $22 million on advertising in early primary states, according to an analysis by AdImpact, a media tracking company.)

There are some signs that major donors are turning their attention to her. Harlan Crow, a wealthy real estate developer, organized a fundraiser for her in October with the assistance of well-connected donors in real estate and oil and gas. Former Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois, a major donor to DeSantis, transferred his allegiance from him to Haley after the first debate. Last week, one of former Vice President Mike Pence’s top donors, Arkansas poultry magnate Ron Cameron, said he would endorse her after Pence dropped out of the race.

Arun Agarwal, a Haley donor and a textile executive in Dallas, expressed optimism that more key sponsors would follow. He said he received several text messages from major Texas donors as the debate progressed asking them what they could do to help. Agarwal added that he had seen this slow and steady rise before: He first contacted Haley around 2004, when he came across a news article about her long-shot bid for the South Carolina House of Representatives. To her surprise, she won that race.

Last night there were “very high expectations and she met them,” he said. “We need to step aside and start supporting what we believe in.”

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