Among Republican presidential candidates, former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley strikes the most fear unto Joe Biden’s campaign team, according to an insider.
Driving the news: Haley, 51, is the only woman and one of three Indian Americans in the GOP’s pool of presidential hopefuls. What distinguishes her campaign, however, are policy positions that increasingly resonate with more moderate voters, particularly those actively looking for an alternative to Donald Trump.
“If they nominate Nikki Haley, we’re in trouble,” a senior Democratic strategist close to the Biden campaign told Politico earlier this month. Such fears corroborate Haley’s positioning of herself as the biggest threat to Democrats in a general election.
Responding to attacks against her age and race earlier this year, she told Fox News: “You read the poll numbers of how I do with independents and suburban women, and all of those. They [Democrats] know that I am the biggest threat that liberals have ever seen and they’re scared about it.”
Debate breakthrough: While one poll declared fellow Indian American Vivek Ramaswamy as the winner of the first GOP presidential primary debate last week — narrowly beating Ron DeSantis — a Washington Post/FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos survey showed Haley as seeing the most improvement. Ahead of the Milwaukee event, 29% of Republican primary voters said they would vote for her; that figure skyrocketed to 46% after her performance.
One of Haley’s shining moments came when she took down Ramaswamy on foreign policy — her expertise — after the latter said he would not support more funding to war-torn Ukraine. The former U.N. ambassador explained that Kiev, as the U.S.’ first line of defense against Russia — and by extension, China — needs continued support.
Haley said at the stage and to Ramaswamy:
“Putin has said: once Russia takes Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics are next. That’s a world war. We’re trying to prevent war. Look at what Putin did today. He killed [Wagner Group mercenary leader Yevgeny] Prigozhin. When I was at the U.N., the Russian ambassador suddenly died. This guy [Putin] is a murderer and you [Ramaswamy] are choosing a murderer over a pro-American country [Ukraine].
Under your watch, you will make America less safe. You have no experience in foreign policy and it shows.”
Traffic to Haley’s campaign website also surged 10 times after the debate. Meanwhile, views and subscribers to her YouTube channel more than doubled, The Hill reported.
Latest polling: Tony Fabrizio, a prominent Trump pollster, told Republican donors that Haley “has surged” in Iowa since the debate, Axios reported on Tuesday. While the former president is still on the lead, second place is now essentially a contest.
“DeSantis has flatlined, Haley has surged, and Ramaswamy is seen as last week’s debate winner,” Fabrizio wrote in a memo obtained by Axios. “With Haley’s surge, DeSantis finds himself with another challenger for a distant 2nd place besides Ramaswamy — Nikki Haley.”