Top 1 Magazine

Top One Magazine

Haley isn’t dropping out. But the end may be near.

CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Even Nikki Haley is hinting her road may be coming to an end.

Haley persisted through loss after loss in Iowa and New Hampshire and, now, South Carolina. And at least for the next 10 days, she says she is refusing to back down from a primary fight that looks all but over.

But on Saturday, Haley signaled a wind-down could be in sight, committing only to keep running through Super Tuesday. Not only was she defeated in her home state, but her path forward has never seemed less clear. Even if it isn’t the proximate cause of her impending departure from the race, Donald Trump’s humiliation campaign against Haley looms over the primary. His recent taunts that she should “switch parties” and is “essentially a Democrat” threaten to further alienate her from the Republican Party’s base.

In the coming days, Haley will travel across the country at a feverish pace, hitting at least seven states and Washington, D.C., in what could be the final stretch of her campaign.

She’ll make two stops each in Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia, while also stumping in Minnesota, Colorado, Utah and Massachusetts, and the campaign is expected to announce events in more states. And Haley is continuing to aggressively raise money, planning to hold at least 10 fundraisers in those 10 days, according to a campaign official granted anonymity to speak freely.

But it could all come to an end right after that. On Saturday, Haley suggested that she isn’t necessarily committed to remaining in the race beyond March 5.

“We’re going to keep going all the way through Super Tuesday,” Haley told reporters after casting her vote on Kiawah Island, inside a private, gated community. “That’s as far as I’ve thought in terms of going forward.”

The list of states where Haley could make a splash between now and Super Tuesday is small. Even if she wins the Michigan primary, Trump will likely get the majority of delegates, which will mostly be awarded at a state convention next weekend.

And while there are some Super Tuesday states with histories of nominating moderate Republicans in primaries, polls even there show Trump with a big lead. In Vermont, which has open primaries and where moderate, Trump-opposing Gov. Phil Scott has been the GOP nominee in four straight elections, a poll this week showed Trump leading Haley by 30 points.

On Saturday, she performed better than recent polling, which showed her 30 points behind Trump in South Carolina. And Haley has remained insistent that Americans deserve a “choice” beyond Trump or President Joe Biden.

But in her speech to supporters at her election night party, Haley avoided suggesting she would stay in the fight for the long haul.

Asked Saturday morning to clarify her remarks from earlier this week that she would continue campaigning “until the last person votes,” and whether she would stay in the race until the Republican convention in July, Haley said she was only referring to the voters in South Carolina.

Haley’s campaign manager, Betsy Ankney, said Friday that the campaign is launching a “seven-figure” national ad buy on cable and digital platforms ahead of Super Tuesday.

The ad tracking firm AdImpact shows Haley’s campaign currently spending $340,000 in Detroit and $96,000 in the Grand Rapids market ahead of Michigan’s Feb. 27 primary — a television ad that touts Haley’s recent endorsement by The Detroit News, as well as her general platform.

Haley, meanwhile, has formed campaign leadership teams in 11 states with upcoming primaries, including in Alaska.

For now, Haley is keeping up her attacks on Trump — and says she is unafraid of his wrath. After emerging from her polling site Saturday, she referred to Trump’s comments before an audience of Black conservatives the night before as another reason he is not fit to be president. Trump, speaking at a dinner in Columbia, said his indictment is “why the Black people” like him, and that he could “only see the Black ones” in the room due to bright lighting.

“It’s disgusting,” Haley said. “That’s the offensiveness that will come every day until the general election. That’s why I continue to say that Donald Trump cannot win a general election.”

And then there are Trump’s legal problems. His criminal trial on charges stemming from hush money payments to a porn star is scheduled to start March 25, pulling Trump into a courtroom and off the campaign trail.

Haley and her team have long sidestepped questions about her viability in the primary, instead trying to turn the subject to Trump’s weak points with the general electorate. But in recent days, campaign officials have reiterated that they are clear-eyed about the shrinking chances of Haley pulling off an upset in the primary.

Four times during a briefing with reporters Friday, Ankney acknowledged that they “know the odds” for Haley. She said that Haley would continue to make her case until the “door closes.”

Mark Harris, lead adviser on the pro-Haley super PAC, SFA Fund, Inc., declined to say what the group will be doing to support Haley ahead of the Super Tuesday contests. And he declined to lay out the case for Haley remaining in the race beyond March 5, saying she is making her own argument. But he said the super PAC, which has spent more on ads in the primary than any other Republican group, is sticking with Haley as long as she remains in the race.

“As long as she’s fighting, we’re fighting,” Harris said. “We’re prepared for all eventualities.”

In FEC filings Saturday, SFA Fund, Inc. reported spending $500,000 on ads for Haley in Michigan, and an official with the super PAC said they would likely be making additional buys early in the week. Key states of interest for Haley allies, the official said, are Vermont, Virginia, Utah, Colorado and Maine.

A spokesperson for Americans for Prosperity Action, the Koch-aligned conservative group that endorsed Haley, declined to say whether the group will continue to back Haley’s campaign effort after the primary in South Carolina, where they knocked doors and ran television and digital advertisements. The group’s CEO Emily Seidel previously said they would take a “business-like approach” to determining whether to continue spending money to support her.

At Haley’s election night party in downtown Charleston, Christie Gilbert, 49, of Columbia, said she remained surprised that more people in her home state didn’t support their former governor. That included her father, who Gilbert said had planned to vote for Haley but changed his mind before heading to the polls Saturday morning because of Haley’s plan to raise the retirement age for entitlement programs.

Asked about how long Haley should continue before ending her bid, Gilbert said, “she’s probably getting close.”

“I would say Super Tuesday — go through that,” Gilbert said, “Then bow out at that point if she can’t get the support she needs to keep going.”

Steven Shepard contributed to this report.

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