Home International Nikki Haley ends White House bid, clearing path for Trump-Biden rematch

Nikki Haley ends White House bid, clearing path for Trump-Biden rematch

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Nikki Haley ended her long-shot challenge to Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Wednesday, ensuring the former president will be the party’s candidate in a rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden in November’s election.

Republican presidential candidate and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks as she announces she is suspending her campaign, in Charleston, South Carolina, US, March 6, 2024. Picture: Reuters, Brian Snyder

By Gram Slattery and Joseph Ax

CHARLESTON, South Carolina – Nikki Haley ended her long-shot challenge to Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Wednesday, ensuring the former president will be the party’s candidate in a rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden in November’s election.

Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations when he was president, made the announcement in a speech in Charleston a day after Super Tuesday, opens new tab, when Trump beat her soundly in 14 of 15 Republican nominating contests.

“The time has now come to suspend my campaign,” Haley said. “I have no regrets.”

She said it was likely Trump – who repeatedly belittled her candidacy – would be the Republican nominee but did not endorse him.

“It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him,” she said. “And I hope he does that.”

Drawing on her foreign policy experience at the UN, Haley said it was important to continue US global leadership. Throughout her campaign, Haley said the United States must help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression, a position at odds with Trump.

“If we retreat further, there will be more war, not less,” she said.

There was no indication Trump would moderate his message.

Just as Haley was conceding the race, he criticized her before inviting her supporters to join him. “Nikki Haley got TROUNCED last night, in record setting fashion,” Trump wrote on the Truth Social media platform.

In contrast, Biden praised Haley for daring to “speak the truth” about Trump and extended his own invitation to her supporters.

“Donald Trump made it clear he doesn’t want Nikki Haley’s supporters. I want to be clear: There is a place for them in my campaign,” Biden said in a statement.

Haley lasted longer than any other Republican challenger to Trump but never posed a serious threat to the former president, whose iron grip on the party’s base remains firm despite multiple criminal indictments.

The rematch between Trump, 77, and Biden, 81 – the first repeat US presidential contest since 1956 – is one that few Americans want. Opinion polls show both Biden and Trump have low approval ratings among voters.

The election promises to be deeply divisive in a country already riven by political polarization. Biden has cast Trump as an existential danger to democratic principles, while Trump has sought to re-litigate his false claims that he won in 2020.

Haley, 52, drew support from deep-pocketed donors intent on stopping Trump from winning a third consecutive Republican presidential nomination, particularly after she notched a series of strong performances at debates that Trump opted to skip.

She ultimately failed to pry loose enough conservative voters in the face of Trump’s dominance.

But her stronger showing among moderate Republicans and independents highlighted how Trump’s scorched-earth style of politics could make him vulnerable in the November 5 election against Biden.

Biden has his own baggage, including widespread concern about his age. Three-quarters of respondents in a February Reuters/Ipsos poll said he was too old to work in government, after already serving as the oldest US president in history.

About half of respondents said the same about Trump.

KEY ISSUES

As in 2020, the race is likely to come down to a handful of swing states, thanks to the winner-take-all, state-by-state Electoral College system that determines the presidential election. Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are all expected to be closely contested in November.

The central issues of the campaign have already come into focus. Despite low unemployment, a red-hot stock market and easing inflation, voters have voiced dissatisfaction with Biden’s economic performance.

Biden’s other major weakness is the state of the US-Mexico border, where a surge of migrants overwhelmed the system after Biden eased some Trump-era policies. Trump’s hawkish stance on immigration – including a promise to initiate the largest deportation effort in history – is at the core of his campaign, just as it was in 2016.

Voters expect Trump would do a better job on both the economy and immigration, according to opinion polls.

Republican lawmakers, egged on by Trump, rejected a bipartisan immigration enforcement bill in February, giving Biden an opportunity to argue that Republicans are more interested in preserving the southern border as a problem rather than finding a solution.

Democrats are also optimistic that voter sentiment on the economy will shift in Biden’s favour if economic trends go on rising throughout 2024.

Trump may be dogged by criminal charges throughout the year, though the schedule of his trials remains unclear. The federal case charging him with trying to overturn the 2020 election, perhaps the weightiest he faces, has been paused while Trump pursues a long-shot argument that he is immune from prosecution.

While most Republicans view his indictments as politically motivated, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling, about a quarter of Republicans and half of independents say they won’t support him if he is convicted of a crime before the election.

Biden has said Trump poses a threat to democracy, citing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters seeking to reverse Biden’s 2020 victory.

Abortion, too, will play a crucial role after the nine-member US Supreme Court, buoyed by three Trump appointees, eliminated a nationwide right to terminate pregnancies in 2022. The subject has become a political liability for Republicans, helping Democrats over-perform expectations in the 2022 midterm elections.

Abortion rights advocates have launched efforts to put the issue before voters in several states, including the battleground of Arizona.

HALEY THWARTED

Haley had been among the first Republican contenders to enter the race in February 2023, but she was largely an afterthought until garnering attention for her stand-out debate performances later in the year.

Through it all, she was reluctant to completely disavow her former boss, having served as his UN ambassador. Trump showed no such reticence, frequently insulting her intelligence and Indian heritage.

Only in the last months of her campaign did Haley begin to forcefully hit back at Trump, questioning his mental acuity, calling him a liar and saying he was too afraid to debate her. In the final weeks of the campaign, she became the standard-bearer for the anti-Trump wing of the party, a dramatic evolution for someone who just months earlier praised the former president in her stump speeches.

Still, she said that as president she would pardon Trump if he were convicted in any of the criminal cases he faces, a position she has never abandoned.

– REUTERS

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