Donald Trump’s team has finally admitted that they’re worried. With Nikki Haley rocketing up the polls in New Hampshire, Trump’s allies have changed their stance toward the former president’s ambassador to the UN.
The change in tone on the campaign trail has revealed a growing concern from Mar-a-Lago. Whereas most of MAGA world delighted in calling her by Trump’s nickname, “birdbrain,” they’re now focused on real attacks, calling her “High Tax Haley.”
For their part, Haley’s supporters are taking it as a badge of honor.
Even though Haley has shown little appetite to take on her old boss directly, her campaign is gearing up for things to get ugly. That the opening salvo happened to be an ad about a non-existent South Carolina gas tax hike is inconsequential, according to those close to the Haley campaign and other plugged-in Republicans looking to support her as the Trump alternative, writes The Daily Beast.
“Everyone from Joe Biden to Donald Trump is attacking Nikki for one reason: She’s the only candidate with momentum,” a senior Haley adviser told The Daily Beast.
While Trump’s attacks carry a certain sway over the GOP, every new ad is also something of a confession, making it clear who Trump views as his main rival. And that could potentially help Haley consolidate the anti-Trump vote.
That’s a big reason the Trump operation has been hesitant to go after any one candidate too much, preferring to criticize all of them in seemingly haphazard attacks. But Haley’s recent surge in New Hampshire—a December poll had her within the margin of error in the first-in-the-nation primary—has clearly gotten under Trumpworld’s skin, threatening the long-held certitude that the former president can coast to the nomination without having to engage in a real campaign.
Haley has, over the past two months, turned the world of Trump backers upside. Not only has she risen in the polls and threatened to take the top spot, she’s also been mentioned by the former president as a possible VP candidate.
“One of the fights we’re going to have, a big fight, it will take place in the spring, will be — they’re going to try to force Nikki on the ticket,” former Trump advisor Steve Bannon said on a recent podcast.
“They’ll say Trump needs a woman — Nikki — on the ticket. She balances things,” he continued. “And she can bring together that 15 percent of Never Trumpers in the Republican Party. We’re going to have to have that fight.”
Bannon’s not the only one expressing concern. Just after Christmas, Donald Trump, Jr. said that he would do everything in his power to stop Haley from becoming the vice president.