BOSTON — Republican Nikki Haley told supporters in New Hampshire on Tuesday that she’s the best GOP candidate to take on incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden, despite her disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses.
Speaking at a rally with Gov. Chris Sununu at the Mount Washington Omni Resort in Bretton Woods, the former South Carolina governor made the case for choosing her over former President Donald Trump, who won a historic victory in Monday’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. She told the crowd that the country is headed the wrong direction under Biden’s administration.
“If you look at what’s happening in the country, it’s not good,” Haley said in remarks. “And you don’t have to turn on the news to see it. You feel it when you go to the gas station. You it when you go to the grocery store. We feel it in our mortgage and insurace payments. Everything that we have to pay has gone up.”
Haley spoke about campaign platform, pledging to reduce the national debt, claw back $100 million in unspent federal COVID-19 funding, eliminate federal gas and diesel taxes and vowed to cut taxes for the middle-class and small businesses. She also called for a crack down on illegal immigration.
“When you look at our Southern border, it doesn’t even look like America,” she told the crowd. “We’ve had 8 million illegal immigrants come across the border in the past year.”
Ahead of her remarks, Sununu warmed up the storm weary crowd by urging voters to get behind Haley’s bid for president, saying she has the “right vision” to take on Trump in next Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary and return the White House to GOP control.
“We need someone that gets stuff done,” Sununu told the crowd. “We need to have a ‘live free or die’ president, who says you, or your kids, or your business comes first.”
Haley made several campaign stops with Sununu ahead of the event in the White Mountains, shaking hands and talking with voters at a diner in Manchester and other locations.
The stepped up campaigning in the Granite State follows Haley’s disappointing third place showing and Iowa caucuses on Monday where she got 19% of the vote, behind Trump with 51% and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis with 21%.
Haley’s campaign has focused a sizable amount of time and resources on New Hampshire and has spent nearly $29 million in the state on political advertisting — more than Trump and DeSantis has spent combined.
She has portrayed herselg as a moderate as she courts “Never Trump” voters — Republicans, independents and crossover Democrats — in New Hampshire and other early primary states. Her campaign pitch descrbes the race as a two-way contest between her and Trump, despite her lackluster showing in Iowa.
Haley’s campaign released a memo from his campaign manager, Betsy Ankeny, arguing that she can “go the distance “to take on Trump and Biden.
“The Iowa results and the New Hampshire polls show Donald Trump is more vulnerable than commonly believed,” she wrote. “Trump and Biden are the two most disliked politicians in America.”
Amid Haley’s rising poll numbers in New Hampshire, the Trump campaign has targeted her with a series of TV and digtal ads criticizing her stance on illegal immigration and Social Security reforms.
Meanwhile, questions are swirling about whether she will attend a scheduled debate against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who placed 2nd in the Iowa caucuses. She issued a statement Tuesday suggesting that she won’t debate DeSantis.
“We’ve had five great debates in this campaign,” the former U.N. ambassador posted on social media. “Unfortunately, Donald Trump has ducked all of them. He has nowhere left to hide. The next debate I do will either be with Donald Trump or with Joe Biden. I look forward to it.”
DeSantis responded that Haley is “afraid” to debate him “because she doesn’t want to answer the tough questions.”
“The reality is that she is not running for the nomination, she’s running to be Trump’s VP,” DeSantis posted on social media. “I won’t snub New Hampshire voters like both Nikki Haley and Donald Trump, and plan to honor my commitments. I look forward to debating two empty podiums in the Granite State this week.”
Following the back and forth between Haley and DeSantis, ABC News abruptly cancelled Wednesday’s GOP debate, citing a lack of candidates.
In comments earlier in the day, Sununu argued that DeSantis’ campaign had written off winning New Hampshire ahead of next week’s primary.
“He’s given up on New Hampshire,” Sununu told CNN. “At the end of the day, he doesn’t have the ground game. he doesn’t have the connections and he’s not doing the retail stops engaging with voters questions.”
Christian M. Wade is covering the New Hamphire presidential primaries for CNHI, LLC and North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected]