Nikki Haley Stands Toe To Toe With Trump

[U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons]

Climbing in the polls after two strong debates, former UN Ambassador and Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley took Donald Trump to task over the weekend. 

Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition and referencing the fact that her husband serves in the military, Haley attacked Trump directly, saying, “The stakes couldn’t be higher, and given those stakes, we cannot have four years of chaos, vendettas and drama. Eight years ago it was good to have a leader who broke things. But right now we need a leader who also knows how to put things back together. America needs a captain who will steady the ship, not capsize it.”

Her speech received widespread applause and showed a willingness to take on the GOP frontrunner that other candidates have not. At the RJC, she took on the former president by name rather than merely make allusions to him like her fellow Republican challengers. 

She launched a clear rebuke of Trump recent comments critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not being “not prepared” for the Oct. 7 massacre, comments that appeared to be driven by animosity over his contention that Netanyahu was disloyal to him by congratulating President Biden on his 2020 win, according to The New York Post.

Trump also called the fellow anti-Israeli Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah — designated as terrorists by the US — “very smart.” His campaign later clarified that “smart does not equal good.”

“As president, I will not compliment Hezbollah. Nor will I criticize Israel’s prime minister in the middle of tragedy and war,” Haley vowed. “I will also not compliment Chinese Communist President Xi. Nor will I call North Korea’s Kim Jong Un my friend.”

“These are not good or smart people,” she went on. “They want us to stay divided, distracted, and morally confused.”

Over the past month, Haley has begun cutting into Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ lead as the most viable “Trump alternative.” 

In recent weeks, reported Politico, “Republican politicians, pundits and at least one newspaper editorial board have called for most of the remaining candidates to drop out and consolidate around Haley, the former South Carolina governor. On Wednesday, former U.S. senator and New Hampshire Gov. Judd Gregg became the latest to issue a Haley endorsement.

‘Our party needs someone who can win and lead,’ Gregg wrote in the New Hampshire Union Leader. ‘Nikki Haley is that person.’

DeSantis has been forced to turn his focus to attacking Haley in an effort to blunt her momentum. And after picking up supporters during the first two primary debates, Haley is likely to have even fewer candidates to share the spotlight with during the next one. On Saturday, former Vice President Mike Pence suspended his campaign.

‘It’s coming at a great time for her,’ said Whit Ayres, a longtime Republican pollster. ‘Sometimes the direction of movement is as important as the absolute level of standing — and she’s going up, while the other candidates are either going down or remaining flat.’”

Haley has been seen as surging among voters, and a recent Iowa poll confirmed that she may be rising at the right time. The Des Moines Register reported that she is now tied with DeSantis in Iowa at 16 percent, but both still trail the former president. “He’s ahead by 27 percentage points — a lead that has expanded slightly despite his mounting legal problems. 

A new Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows 43% of likely Republican caucusgoers choose Trump as their first choice for president, up from 42% in an August Iowa Poll.”

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