Is Nikki Haley having a moment?

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Nikki Haley is getting some positive buzz on the campaign trail. She earned praise coming out of the first Republican debate for her strong performance. She is gaining steam in New Hampshire and earning a growing number of endorsements from Iowa officials.

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In a recent CNN poll, Nikki Haley beats Joe Biden 49% to 43%. The only GOP primary candidate who does not beat Biden is Vivek Ramaswamy. Haley polled the strongest against Biden. It’s one poll and it is still too far out from the first primary contest, or Iowa caucus, but it is notable that among the not-Trump candidates, Nikki is getting second looks from voters. She was the only GOP candidate to beat Biden in a hypothetical match-up by a margin larger than the survey’s margin of error. Her lead over Biden was outside of the 3.5 point margin of error.

Haley is gaining support among white voters with college degrees, a demographic that Trump lost in 2020.

The new poll comes as Haley has had a boost of momentum in the wake of the first GOP debate last month. A Washington Post/FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos effort to track support before and after the debate found that the number of Republican debate watchers who said they are considering supporting her candidacy increased from 29 to 46 percent.

And the campaign reaped the benefits; it says it received more online grassroots donations in the first 24 hours after the debate than in any other single day since Haley entered the race in February. Meanwhile, traffic to Haley’s website had risen tenfold, and she was the second-most Googled candidate following the debate — behind Ramaswamy, who topped Google’s list of trending searches the morning after the debate as the subject of more than a million searches in 24 hours.

A new NMB Research survey obtained by Politico finds Haley tied with DeSantis at 10 percent in the Granite State among potential primary voters. Though it’s worth noting that Haley is at just 3.8 percent in New Hampshire in a RealClearPolitics polling average, compared to DeSantis’s 13.3 percent.

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She’s over the target because the Biden campaign has taken notice of her advancement in voter support and they are dinging her. Biden campaign spokesperson Kevin Munoz is labeling her a “MAGA Republican” and slamming her over an alleged lack of education policy. A Biden campaign spokesman used the standard tropes about book banning and being a ‘right wing extremist.’ Blah, blah, blah.

“Nikki Haley’s education ‘platform’ is just a retread of the same extreme policy points the other Republican candidates are echoing, reminding Americans just how out of touch 2024 Republicans are,” Munoz said.

Her plan “isn’t a platform for parents, students, or teachers,” but “an extreme attempt to appease a right-wing, extremist group that cares about banning books in schools instead of keeping out children safe from gun violence,” he said.

Iowa Sen. Chris Cournoyer decided to endorse Haley after seeing her debate performance. She also secured the endorsements of Iowa state Rep. Shannon Latham and Dennis Murdock, CEO of Central Iowa Power Cooperative. Some are questioning her strategy, though, as she has not been in Iowa since the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 12. She has been more focused lately on New Hampshire and South Carolina. But, fear not, Haley supporters, she will be back in Iowa on Sept.16 for the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition banquet in Des Moines.

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Some Iowans are concerned that she is concentrating too much on New Hampshire and South Carolina at the expense of campaigning in Iowa.

That nearly post-debate absence may put Haley in “danger” with Iowa voters, said Kedron Bardwell, chairman of the political science department at Simpson College in Indianola. Bardwell, an independent voter, said Iowans want to feel “courted” by candidates and Haley doesn’t appear to have chosen between Iowa or New Hampshire as her “make-or-break state.”

“She either needs to commit to the level of extensive travel and campaigning necessary to break through in Iowa or maybe it’s actually better for her strategically to just focus on New Hampshire and hope that she’s the alternative to Chris Christie,” Bardwell said.

Since announcing her presidential campaign in February, Haley has held 32 campaign events in Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register presidential candidate tracker. Ramaswamy, conversely, has held 66 events, Pence has held 44 events and DeSantis, 35.

Haley joined other presidential candidates, participating in U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride, the Family Leadership Summit and the Iowa Lincoln Dinner.

Her attention to voters in New Hampshire is paying off. She’s gotten some help from a federal super PAC that supports her campaign. Called the SFA Fund, it ran an ad focusing on her tough stance toward China. It ran for two weeks only in Iowa and New Hampshire.

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According to a Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll, 6% of likely Republican caucusgoers have named Haley as their first presidential choice — tying with Pence. Trump holds the lead at 42%, with DeSantis trailing him at 19% and Scott at 9%.

In a crowded GOP presidential field, where Trump and DeSantis continue to dominate, candidates need to have a “memorable” moment, Bardwell said.

“We’re really at the name recognition stage of the campaign,” he said, and with the first Republican debate now over, candidates, including Haley, must figure out how to break away from the pack.

One problem area for Haley in Iowa may be the evangelical voters, a large block of voters in that state. She polls at about 3% with them.

In New Hampshire, she has moved to the number three slot in some polls. She is gaining on DeSantis for second place behind Trump, One of her New Hampshire volunteers, an Air Force Desert Storm veteran, believes Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley is surging.

“There is an energy here that she is creating through her narrative and her prose. I haven’t been this impressed with a presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan,” Tourangeau said during an interview.

“Her stances on every critical policy are rational and grounded which is an approach that’s catching on all over the state. I feel it.”

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She has made about 50 stops in New Hampshire and earlier this week she appeared at a town hall with Moms for Liberty. Some voters voiced appreciation that she is supporting that group.

Haley was one of the first to come to the group’s defense when the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center labeled it an “extremist group.”

“Count me in as one of them,” Haley told WMUR. “As a mom, I know how important it is for parents to have all the information for their children to be successful.”

So, Nikki Haley is seizing the moment and going full force in the early primary states.

Former House Deputy Speaker Kim Rice, R-Hudson, said Haley’s strong performance during the first debate is bringing out voters willing to consider her candidacy.

“I keep telling people, ‘Take your eye off the shiny object out there,’ the guy (Trump) making ridiculous claims and wild statements’ and focus on who you think can be the next president we can all be proud of. Nikki Haley is that person,” Rice said.

The first debate did Nikki a lot of good. Her campaign is seeing an increase in donations – she raised over $1M immediately after the debate.

There’s a long way to go but it’s interesting watching the not-Trump candidates as they try to break out. DeSantis is still number two but he isn’t catching fire, either. The only way that any of them will break out is to go for Trump directly during this primary. Otherwise, why are they running against him? They have to make a case for their candidacy and why they think Trump doesn’t deserve a second term. As long as they are all too timid to take it to Trump, nothing will change. Trump will maintain a strong lead.

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David Strom 12:40 PM | July 23, 2024
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