But on Tuesday night, the former president declared the race over and said Haley should give it up. And since it’s Trump, that’s not all he said.
“Who the hell was the imposter that went up on the stage and, like, claimed a victory?” Trump asked after Haley thanked her supporters and promised to go on to campaign in South Carolina.
Trump mocked Haley’s “fancy dress, that probably wasn’t so fancy,” and made vague threats about looming investigations and recriminations if she didn’t drop out. “I don’t get too angry, I get even,” he said to the roar of the crowd.
He also falsely claimed he won the last election (he didn’t), threw a few jabs at President Joe Biden, and then returned to unpacking Haley’s New Hampshire speech.
“I find that in life, you can’t let people get away with bullshit,” he said.
Standing behind Trump for every insult and insinuation were three of his former GOP rivals, Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. They laughed and cheered. Given a chance to speak, Scott yelled into the microphone, “Let’s get this party started tonight!”
The irony was lost on no one, especially Trump, that it had been Haley who appointed Scott to the Senate in 2012. A deeply religious and quietly conservative House member at the time, Haley elevated him to become the first Black senator from the Deep South since Reconstruction. On the day she made the announcement, Haley said, “Tim Scott earned this seat.”
On Tuesday night, Trump said the opposite of Haley.
“She appointed you, but you endorsed me, the senator of her own state,” he said to Scott. “You must really hate her.” Scott quickly stepped forward, not to tell Trump he had gone too far, but to compliment him. “I just love you,” he said.
And that, readers, in a nutshell, is the case for why Haley should stay in the race. Because unlike every other Trump rival down in the count, Haley has had the courage to defy Trump and fight on. And that’s not all.
Unlike DeSantis, Haley raised enough money to campaign past Iowa, but also knew to save enough to get past New Hampshire. Unlike Trump, Haley won over the same coalition of Republicans, independents and moderate Democrats in early states that the GOP nominee will need to win in November.
And unlike Tim Scott, Haley has had the character to remain true to herself, even in the face of Trump’s “bird brain” schoolyard insults and Mafioso threats.
By Wednesday, Haley was back in South Carolina, striding onto a rally stage to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and telling her supporters she’s not going anywhere. While she was at it, she also challenged Trump to debate her, which he has refused to do throughout the entire primary cycle.
“Bring it, Donald. Show me what you’ve got!” she called out to her crowd.
Could it be that Trump is afraid to be on the same stage as her? With lines like that, I’d say he’s right to be afraid.
That’s not to say the math is easy for Haley. It’s not. Trump is leading by a mile in the polls of her home state and he loves pointing out that the governor, lieutenant governor, and plenty of others have endorsed him, not her.
But her backers will point out that Haley defeated the governor and lieutenant governor and several others in local races on her road to the governor’s mansion and those delicate male egos don’t heal so quickly.
But beyond the sheer satisfaction of watching Haley refuse to drop out when the Men of the GOP have told her to hang it up, there is a larger reason Republicans should welcome Haley as a participant in the primary, not threaten to expel her and her supporters from the party.
As much as the GOP base wants Trump to be their nominee, this party needs a backup plan. Apart from the fact that the former president is a McDonald’s chomping 77-year-old, he has also been indicted on 91 felony counts, whether his crowds want to believe the charges are legitimate or not.
He could be tried for many of those alleged crimes before Election Day. Could he pardon himself as president if he’s convicted? In some cases, yes. But are there some Trump supporters who won’t vote for a convicted felon? Also, yes.
It wasn’t all men on stage with Trump Tuesday night, of course. His lawyer, Alina Habba, was there, as was U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who told him, “Beautiful job,” as he walked off the stage.
And with that, the Republican race for president continued.
Haley may not have the money to go through the end. And she may face larger losses among GOP voters as Trump’s inevitability as the nominee becomes undeniable. But her reason for running, and the need the GOP has for her, remain the same.
So bring it, Nikki. Show us what you’ve got.