The New Hampshire primary campaign has entered its final days with an increasingly nasty tone as Nikki Haley and Donald Trump attacked each other amid yet more signs that Republicans are consolidating their support around the former US president as he secured a vital endorsement.
On Friday night in New Hampshire, South Carolina senator Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate and a former presidential hopeful himself, said he was throwing his weight behind Trump amid rumors that he is in the running to become Trump’s running mate.
Scott’s endorsement makes him the 26th Republican senator to back Trump, mirroring 120 House Republicans and 10 governors who are already on board with his re-election.
But Scott’s endorsement of Trump is a blow to Haley. As governor of South Carolina, she appointed Scott to the Senate in 2012. “We need a president who understands that the American people are sick and tired about being sick and tired,” Scott told a Trump rally in the state on Friday. “We need a president our foreign adversaries are afraid of and our allies respect.”
The broad backing of Trump at such an early stage of the nomination process is uncharacteristic of presidential election campaigns, when battles for the placement can often drag out into the summer. But Trump’s crushing victory in Iowa on Monday night has accelerated the race.
“It’s time for us to unite our party so that we make sure that the only target we’re talking about is firing Joe Biden,” Scott told Fox News after formally backing the frontrunner.
But that unity has not been on display in recent days as Haley, who is running about 20 point points behind Trump among Republican primary voters in the state, according to polls released this week, is hoping independent voters will lift her primary challenge in the vital state.
Trump laid into the former South Carolina governor at rally in her home state, saying he is “probably” not choosing Haley as his running mate. “She is not presidential timber,” Trump said.
“I know her very well. She’s not tough enough. She’s not smart enough. And she wasn’t respected enough. She cannot do this job. She’s not going to be able to deal with President Xi. She’s not going to be able to deal with Putin.”
Meanwhile, Haley struck back. “Americans aren’t stupid to just believe what he says,” Haley told reporters at an event in the state this week. “The reality is: who lost the House for us? Who lost the Senate? Who lost the White House? Donald Trump. Donald Trump. Donald Trump. Nikki Haley will win every single one of those back.”
Haley’s TV ads in the state have also attempted to mine deep voter dissatisfaction with the likely candidates in November’s election. “The two most disliked politicians in America? Trump and Biden. Both are consumed by chaos, negativity and grievances of the past,” a voiceover says in an advertising spot. “The better choice for a better America? Nikki Haley.”
Haley spent Friday campaigning with New Hampshire governor, Chris Sununu. At a campaign event she accused Trump of “telling a whole lot of lies”.
“If he’s gonna lie about me, I’m gonna tell the truth about him,” she added.
Their political slug match has intensified as Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, humbled in Iowa, mired in the single-digits in New Hampshire and trailing badly in South Carolina, the next state to hold a primary contest, signaled that he is washing his hands of the 2024 election and focusing on 2028.
Meanwhile, with both Trump and Biden seemingly in position for a November rematch, Democrats appear ready to adapt their messaging from Trump’s threat-to-democracy approach to combine it with the issue of reproductive rights.
Abortion politics and opposition to the overturning of federal abortion rights proved a winner for the party in 2022’s midterm elections.
“Democrats will keep it as a core part of their messaging heading into the fall because it’s such a clear contrast to the Republican position, which is out of step with where the American people are on this issue,” Democratic communications strategist Katie Grant Drew told the Hill.
The Biden campaign is also homing in on abortion with campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez circulating a memo on Friday saying that when Americans go to the polls, “they will go knowing that the fate of every American woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions is on the line”.