The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Haley calls for generation­al change in launching 2024 presidenti­al bid

- By Meg Kinnard and Michelle L. Price

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Nikki Haley launched her campaign for the Republican presidenti­al nomination on Wednesday with a call for generation­al change in Washington and a rejection of what she derided as “identity politics” dividing the United States.

Speaking from the historic coastal city of Charleston, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador struck themes intended to resonate with the Republican voters she will court as the first major GOP challenger to former President Donald Trump.

She blasted President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats as too liberal and insisted there's not a problem with racism in the U.S. as they contend. But there were occasional notes that could appeal beyond the GOP base, including appeals for unity and criticism of corporate bailouts.

Haley, who is 51, said that Republican­s have repeatedly lost the popular vote in recent elections because they “failed to win the confidence of a majority of Americans.” The solution, she said, was to “put your trust in a new generation.”

“America is not past its prime,” she told a crowd of several hundred people gathered near Charleston's visitors center. “It's just that our politician­s are past theirs.”

That was an obvious knock on Biden, who, at 80, is the oldest president in history, a fact that makes even some Democrats uneasy. But it was also a slight of Trump, who has launched a third White House bid and remains popular with wide swaths of Republican voters. Trump is 76 and has had an up-and-down relationsh­ip with Haley from the early days of the 2016 campaign through her time in his administra­tion.

Haley said she would support a “mandatory mental competency test for politician­s over 75 years old.”

While Haley is the first major Republican to officially challenge Trump, she will hardly be the last. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are among those expected to launch campaigns in the coming months. Haley's fellow South Carolinian Sen. Tim Scott is also weighing a White House bid.

At a time when Biden is holding together a Western alliance against Russia's invasion of Ukraine and facing scrutiny for his handling of unidentifi­ed aerial objects, Haley leaned into the national security credential­s she said she gained at the U.N. Among the speakers who introduced her was the mother of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was imprisoned in North Korea and died shortly after his release.

In her remarks, Haley criticized Biden's presiding over the chaotic withdrawal of American troops from Afghanista­n, North Korea's launch of missiles, heightened Russian aggression and an emboldened China.

“Today our enemies think that the American era has passed," she said. “They're wrong.”

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