Nikki Haley Is Running for President, the First G.O.P. Rival to Take On Trump


Nikki Haley Is Running for President, the First G.O.P. Rival to Take On Trump

Ms. Haley, 51, a former South Carolina governor and a United Nations ambassador in the Trump administration, called for “generational change” in the party.

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Nikki Haley talks into a microphone, seated in front of a blue flag with yellow fringe. A campaign sign in red, white and blue is in the background.
Former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina campaigning in September for Joe Lombardo in Las Vegas. He won the governor’s race in Nevada in November.Credit…Saeed Rahbaran for The New York Times
Trip Gabriel

By Trip Gabriel

Feb. 14, 2023Updated 11:00 a.m. ET

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, entered the race for president on Tuesday, a well-hinted-at move that is likely to leave her as the lone major Republican challenger to former President Donald J. Trump for many weeks, if not months, as other potential 2024 rivals bide their time.

By announcing her campaign early, Ms. Haley, 51, who called for “generational change” in her party, seized an opportunity for a head start on fund-raising and to command a closer look from Republican primary voters, whose support she needs if she is to rise from low single digits in early polls of the G.O.P. field.

She made the announcement in a video that does not mention Mr. Trump’s name, but makes clear her intention to break with the Trump era. In addition to calling for a new generation to step up, she urged Republicans to rally around substantive issues and a candidate with appeal to mainstream America.

“Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections,” she said. “That has to change.”

Ms. Haley’s campaign has drawn encouragement from many polls showing that in a hypothetical multicandidate field, Mr. Trump wins less than 50 percent of Republican voters. Her entry into the race underscores how the former president has failed to scare off rivals in his third presidential campaign, announced in November after a disappointing midterm election for Republicans.

Her announcement reversed a statement in 2021 that she would not run if Mr. Trump were a candidate. She was a rare figure to leave the Trump administration while earning praise from Mr. Trump rather than a parting insult. Mr. Trump recently said that when Ms. Haley informed him she was considering a run, he told her, “You should do it.”

That the former president has so far not coined an insulting nickname or otherwise attacked Ms. Haley is a sign, perhaps, that he does not perceive her as a major threat. Strategically, it is to Mr. Trump’s advantage to have multiple candidates splitting the votes of Republicans opposed to him.

Since leaving the Trump administration in 2018, Ms. Haley has walked a fine line with the former president, praising his policies and accomplishments in office while offering criticism that appeals to Republican moderates. The day after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, she said his actions “will be judged harshly by history.”

“He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him,” she told Politico days later.

But she opposed Mr. Trump’s impeachment for his actions surrounding the riot. “At some point, I mean, give the man a break,” she said on Fox News in late January 2021.

The jockeying for the next presidential race is already underway.

  • G.O.P. Field: Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador, has officially entered the 2024 race. It’s the first major Republican challenge to Donald J. Trump, but unlikely to be the last.
  • DeSantis’s Challenge: Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has pursued a strategy of conflict avoidance with Mr. Trump in the shadow G.O.P. primary. But if he runs for president as expected, a clash is inevitable.
  • What the Polling Says: Mr. DeSantis is no Scott Walker, writes Nate Cohn. The Florida governor’s support among Republicans at this early stage of the primary cycle puts him in rare company.
  • Harris’s Struggles: With President Biden appearing all but certain to run again, concerns are growing over whether Kamala Harris, who is trying to define her vice presidency, will be a liability for the ticket.