The race for second place is on, and Nikki Haley seems to be lapping the field right now. Coming off of last week’s GOP presidential debate — and her now-infamous “scum” remark — everything seems to be coming up roses this week for the former U.N. ambassador.
Consensus is building that her campaign will reap the rewards following the departure from the presidential primary of her fellow South Carolinian, Tim Scott. Haley was quick to respond to the news of Scott suspending his campaign by tweeting:
Tim Scott is a good man of faith and an inspiration to so many. The Republican primary was made better by his participation in it. South Carolina is blessed to continue to have him as our senator.
Although Scott has yet to formally back a candidate, there are indications that his supporters — both voters and financial backers — are looking to throw their support behind Haley. Donald Trump’s pollster, Tony Fabrizio, is telling donors that his polling shows Haley as the candidate most likely to benefit from Scott’s exit in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses.
In a memo obtained by Axios, Fabrizio points out that Trump has a comfortable lead in Iowa, sitting at 43 percent, followed by DeSantis at 19 percent and Haley at 16 percent. Scott, Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy were tied at 5 percent apiece. If most of Scott’s supporters switched to Haley, she’d overtake DeSantis to move into second place. Fabrizio’s conclusion was that DeSantis is “stagnating” in Iowa, while Haley is “making gains.”
Haley is riding this wave of momentum by kicking things up a notch in Iowa and New Hampshire. Her campaign just made a big ad buy in those states, reserving $10 million in TV, radio, and digital advertising for the first week of December. That’s roughly one month before the Iowa caucuses. Haley had yet to make an ad buy this cycle, so the commitment of big bucks in crucial primary states shows she has one person in her sights: Ron DeSantis.
Paying for big ad buys, of course, means having deep pockets backing you. In another indication that Haley is benefitting from Tim Scott’s departure, a big bucks Scott supporter is now co-hosting a New York City fundraiser for Haley. Eric Levine praised Scott for stepping aside “with dignity” and threw his support behind Haley, saying, “She is our last best hope to defeat Donald Trump and then take back the White House.”
There may be more big money heading her way if reports are true that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is in talks to support Haley. Dimon, who once worked on Trump’s business advisory council and has been a big Democrat donor in the past, has apparently been engaging in “informal” phone conversations with Haley and “believes she has the potential to bring the country together.”
All of this sets up a Haley vs. DeSantis showdown in Iowa.
The DeSantis campaign argues that Haley doesn’t have what it takes to beat Trump and has no “mathematical pathway to victory” in Iowa. DeSantis Communications Director Andrew Romeo said Tuesday, “No amount of money will be enough for Nikki Haley to conceal her pro-China, pro-Gaza aid, pro-gas tax, and pro-Hillary record. As Americans look behind the curtain, they will see she does not have the extensive record of conservative achievements that Ron DeSantis boasts. It’s clear there is no way Nikki Haley can beat Donald Trump, and every dollar spent on her candidacy is an in-kind to the Trump Campaign.”
Haley’s campaign begs to differ, with Haley for President campaign manager Betsy Ankney saying the path to victory is “clear,” but “the same can’t be said for Ron DeSantis, who, even with a decent showing in Iowa, can’t afford a cup of coffee at the Red Arrow Diner in [Manchester] New Hampshire and is a mere tourist in South Carolina.”
The Iowa caucuses will held on January 15, 2024.