Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and United Nations ambassador, announced Tuesday she was entering the 2024 presidential race, making her the first Republican to challenge her former boss and ex-President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.
Haley, 51, dug into the difference in ages between 80-year-old President Joe Biden and her challenger Trump, who’s 76. While Biden hasn’t formally announced his candidacy, he’s expected to do so in the coming weeks.
“Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections. That has to change,” Haley said in a video posted to her Twitter account. She called for a new generation of leaders, saying Biden’s record was “abysmal” and that the “Washington establishment has failed us over and over and over again.”
In announcing her run a day before she’s scheduled a formal campaign launch in Charleston, S.C., Haley called for fiscal responsibility and secured borders.
Haley has been assembling a team to explore a potential run for weeks, despite previous claims that she wouldn’t run if Trump decided to launch his third campaign for the White House.
She enters the race trailing Trump and other would-be challengers in public polls.
A Morning Consult poll on Tuesday, for instance, shows Trump backed by 47% of Republican primary voters, while just 3% of respondents said they would pick Haley. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely expected to enter the race, has 31% of the GOP support while Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence, who’s likewise hinted at a possible run, has 7% of the vote.
One of Trump’s staunchest Republican opponents in the U.S. House, former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is neck-and-neck with Haley at 3% of the vote. None of those potential challenges have formally announced a run.
Born and raised in South Carolina, Haley noted how her Indian parents made her “different” from most other Americans, which forced her to look for similarities with other people instead. She acknowledged the deep political divide as well as the racial and socio-economic tensions in the nation right now, saying she’s seen and heard of atrocities overseas that underscore the freedoms Americans enjoy.
“I’ve seen evil,” she said. In China, the leaders are committing genocide while the Iranian government murders people who challenge its policies, she said. “Even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America,” she said.
The political rancor in the U.S. is seen as a vulnerability by many at home and abroad, she said.
“The socialist left sees an opportunity to rewrite history. China and Russia are on the march. They all think we can be bullied, kicked around,” she said. “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.”
Haley’s widely anticipated announcement makes her just the second candidate in what’s likely to become a wide Republican primary field. Other GOP names getting presidential buzz include DeSantis, Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
But for now, Haley is Trump’s sole rival, putting her in a potentially awkward spot as she has shifted her attitude toward with the former president in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot by a mob of his supporters.
The riot, which was fueled by false claims of election fraud Trump had trumpeted, disrupted the transfer of power to Biden. Not long after the attack, Haley said she was “disgusted” by what Trump had done.
But like other Republicans, she reverted to a more positive view of Trump, who remains highly popular with a large chunk of the GOP base.