NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Nikki Haley has ramped up her criticism of Donald Trump over the course of the 2024 presidential campaign. But she’s taking the attacks and the back-and-forth to a new level as she digs into a month of campaigning in South Carolina before the state’s Feb. 24 primary.
She was greeted in her home state by about a dozen Trump supporters protesting outside her Wednesday-night rally here. And Haley gave back as good as she was getting, dispensing with her usual stump speech introduction to go directly after the former president at the top of her own remarks on Wednesday.
“Bring it, Donald,” she said, as she challenged the former president to a debate.
She brought up Trump’s focus on her in his victory speech on the night of the New Hampshire primary, calling it a “temper tantrum.”
“I know that’s what he does when he is threatened, and he should feel threatened, without a doubt,” she said, as the crowd of hundreds cheered.
In another escalation, Haley — who says her campaign raised $1 million in online and small-dollar donations in the 24 hours after her speech in New Hampshire on Tuesday night — fundraised off of Trump’s attacks for the first time Thursday.
In response to the former president’s threat on Truth Social that anyone who donates to Haley would be “be permanently barred from the MAGA camp,” the Haley campaign began selling T-shirts that said “BARRED. PERMANENTLY.”
Despite growing calls to drop out and have the Republican Party coalesce around Trump after his 11-point win over Haley in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, Haley indicated her intention to stay in the race, saying, “Americans deserve better than what they have in these two options.”
“Listen, we’ve only had two states that have voted,” she said Wednesday. “We got 48 more that deserve to vote.”
The Haley campaign began running ads in South Carolina on Wednesday, and its aligned super PAC, SFA Fund Inc., will be starting a million-dollar ad buy in the state next week, according to the group’s spokesperson. Both the campaign and super PAC have indicated their intention to stay in beyond Haley’s home-state primary, expressing optimism for Haley’s chances in Michigan’s Feb. 27 primary and some of the 16 primaries on Super Tuesday, March 5. (Michigan Republicans have a hybrid system with both a primary and a March 2 caucus, with more delegates at stake at the caucus.)
On Thursday, SFA Fund announced that it raised over $50 million in the last six months of 2023, a hefty sum that could well finance an extended campaign.
Despite Haley herself pushing back on being labeled a “moderate,” her campaign plans to continue courting independents, who helped her get more than 43% of the vote in New Hampshire’s primary.
Campaign manager Betsy Ankney said in a memo released Tuesday that independents participating in GOP primaries is “nothing new” — noting Trump’s critical support from independents when he was running for president for the first time in 2016.
Ankney touted the fact that “eleven of the 16 Super Tuesday states have open or semi-open primaries,” meaning voters not registered as Republicans can participate.
“Those include Virginia, Texas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Vermont, all with favorable demographics,” Ankney wrote. “After Super Tuesday, we will have a very good picture of where this race stands. … Until then, everyone should take a deep breath.”
But SFA Fund Inc. lead strategist Mark Harris did note that Haley needs to grow her support from Republicans in order to win South Carolina.
“We have to do better with Republicans. We have to do better with conservatives,” he said on a call with reporters Wednesday. “We definitely have to grow in those key demographics to provide us a realistic path to the nomination.”