The Reporter (Vacaville)

Haley faces `high-wire act' in 2024 bid against Trump

- By Meg Kinnard and Steve Peoples

CHARLESTON, S.C. >> Few have navigated the turbulent politics of the Trump era like Nikki Haley.

In early 2016, the thenSouth Carolina governor said she was “embarrasse­d” by candidate Donald Trump and decried his reluctance to condemn white supremacis­ts. Nine months later, she agreed to join his Cabinet, serving as a key validator as Trump sought to win over skeptical world leaders and voters at home.

And shortly after Trump left the White House, Haley, whose resume by then included an ambassador­ship to the United Nations, vowed not to step in the way if he ran for the 2024 Republican presidenti­al nomination. Yet on Wednesday, she is poised to become the first major Republican candidate to enter the race against him.

“It's going to be quite the high-wire act,” said veteran Republican strategist Terry Sullivan. “She says she's always been an underdog. She will be again.”

The 51-year-old Haley may be the first to take on Trump, but a half-dozen or more high-profile Republican­s are expected to join the GOP's 2024 presidenti­al nomination contest over the coming months. Some would-be competitor­s may be more popular than Haley even in South Carolina, where she lives and has establishe­d a campaign headquarte­rs.

Likely rivals include Sen. Tim Scott, a fellow South Carolinian and perhaps the most celebrated elected official in a state where Trump has already locked up endorsemen­ts from the governor and its senior senator, Lindsey Graham. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence could also be formidable foes should they run, as widely expected.

Indeed, on the eve of this week's announceme­nt, there is broad agreement that Haley — the only Republican woman of color expected in the 2024 contest, a politician who loves to remind people that she has never lost an election — is about to be tested as never before.

Trump has stepped up his attacks on Haley in recent weeks. But allies describe the former governor, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants, as a savvy executive uniquely positioned to lead a new generation of Republican­s. They understand that the fight ahead could get ugly.

“She took the bull by the horns and said, `That doesn't matter to me, I'm going to run,'” said longtime supporter Gavin J. Smith. “She did that when she ran for governor, and that's what you're going to see when she runs for president.”

Perhaps more than anyone this young presidenti­al primary season, Haley personifie­s the Republican Party's shifting views on Trump. Her reversal on whether to challenge the former president was based less on concerns about his divisive leadership or policy disagreeme­nts than the growing belief within the GOP that Trump is losing political strength.

Haley, like the vast majority of her party, largely supported Trump even after he inspired a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. It was not until Trumpbacke­d candidates across several key states were defeated in last fall's midterm elections that a wave of high-profile Republican­s began to openly weigh 2024 bids against him.

New York-based Republican donor Eric Levine says he's convinced that another Trump Republican nomination would lead to his party's destructio­n. Haley, he said, is among the three favorite Trump alternativ­es.

“I think as a woman of color and a daughter of legal immigrants from India, she'd give the Democratic Party no reason to exist. All their woke crap goes out the window,” Levine said. “I think she's a spectacula­r candidate.”

Haley's announceme­nt will take place Wednesday in Charleston, the historic coastal city where her campaign will be based. Almost immediatel­y, she'll travel to meet voters in New Hampshire and Iowa.

She's entrusted her campaign to a collection of senior staff led by longtime aides. Betsy Ankney, who heads up Haley's PAC, will manage the campaign, with the PAC's developmen­t director, Mary Kate Johnson, as finance director, Haley's team told The Associated Press.

Longtime Haley adviser Chaney Denton and Nachama Soloveichi­k, who was a spokeswoma­n for recently retired Pennsylvan­ia Sen. Pat Toomey, will head up communicat­ions. Strategist Jon Lerner will serve as senior adviser, and Barney Keller of Jamestown Associates will be Haley's media consultant.

 ?? JOHN LOCHER — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE ?? Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, on Nov. 19, 2022, in Las Vegas.
JOHN LOCHER — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, on Nov. 19, 2022, in Las Vegas.

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