On Nikki Haley’s first campaign swing through New Hampshire since her Civil War question stumble, there’s no sign the misstep has slowed her momentum.
On Tuesday morning, former Chris Christie steering committee member Tom Boucher, a prominent GOP player, announced on Fox News he is flipping to Haley. “I was a Christie supporter. I love Chris Christie; he did a great job in his campaign. But Nikki Haley is the way to beat Trump,” Boucher said.
Tuesday night, in front of an overflow crowd at a country club in Rye, Haley picked up the endorsement of media mogul and former GOP U.S. Senate candidate Bill Binnie. During a radio appearance with Haley on Jack Heath’s radio show Wednesday morning, Binnie said he’s been involved in Granite State Republican politics for years.
“And I can’t think of a better candidate I’ve seen in my tenure than yourself,” he told Haley. “Anything we can do here at Binnie Media to help you, we’re happy to do it. And I say that here on the air.”
Then came news Wednesday morning that the Haley campaign raised $24 million in the fourth quarter of last year, twice the amount she’d ever raised over the same period. The campaign says it has $14.5 million cash on hand, and Granite Staters can attest her ads are in heavy rotation in New Hampshire.
At the Rye town hall, Haley backer Gov. Chris Sununu showed his trademark optimism and energy.
“There’s only one candidate in the race for the GOP primary for president that has momentum. There’s only one candidate whose numbers are surging,” Sununu told the crowd. And he wasn’t the only Sununu on hand to help Haley. Also present was Sununu’s brother, former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu, and their father, former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu.
Sununu’s father, who also served as White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush, told NHJournal he fully supports Haley’s campaign and thinks voters are tired of having “octogenarians in the White House.”
“She also has the support of a great governor,” the elder Sununu added.
Biden turned 81 years old in November, while Trump will turn 78 in June.
Haley, who turns 52 on Jan. 20, elicited loud cheers earlier after sharing one of her most popular stump speech lines.
“Right now, Congress has become the most privileged nursing home in the country.”
There weren’t any questions about Civil War history Tuesday night, but Haley did discuss in detail the removal of the Confederate flag from her state’s capitol building.
Queried by a voter on how she’d unify the country, Haley said the “real test is when you go through a crisis.” She recalled the June 2015 massacre in Charleston, S.C., where a self-identified white supremacist targeted an African American church, killing nine and wounding 10.
“Two days later, the killer came out with his manifesto, and he was draped in the Confederate flag,” Haley said, adding that she later called a meeting with state Democratic and Republican leaders. “And when we had those meetings, I said, ‘At three o’clock today, I’m going to call for the Confederate flag to come down.’
“Half of South Carolina saw the flag as heritage and tradition; the other half saw it as slavery and hate.”
While Haley continues to trail Trump in New Hampshire by double digits in most polls, her support has surged. Many GOP insiders tell NHJournal it’s a two-person race in the Granite State. Team Trump has taken notice, too, running ads attacking Haley’s record on taxes while governor of South Carolina.
“I’m moved that President Trump has given me some attention,” Haley told the crowd, “and I appreciate that.” But, she said, “every single thing that he said [in his commercials] has been a lie.”
“I never raised taxes; I cut taxes,” Haley said. “But President Trump proposed a 25-cent gas tax when he was president in 2018. He put us $8 trillion in debt in just four years. You’ve got Trump and (President Joe) Biden who’ve gone and spent all of our money, and they want you to think life was better under both of them, but I think both of them are the problem.
“So when you see those commercials, you can just laugh and know that when people get desperate, they lie. But I get happy because that means we’re winning.”
Gov. Chris Sununu, meanwhile, doubled down in his comments to reporters after the event on his view that the primary is now a two-person race. Sununu also said a winnowing of the Republican field would be exactly what Haley needs to overcome Trump.
“The psychology of a voter drastically changes when they’re just given two choices, A or B,” he said. “When he or she is given 12 choices, it’s almost like, ‘Well, I’m not gonna have time to look at all these candidates, so I guess I’ll go with Trump, I guess I’ll go with the old guy.’
“But when it’s a one-on-one race, now folks really engage, and the aspect of it becoming one-on-one allows retail politics to take on a whole new life of its own.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The quote from Bill Binnie has been updated from previous versions of this article.