Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley received a rousing reception in her home state of South Carolina Wednesday when she formally launched her 2024 campaign for president. And Granite State Republicans say she can expect a warm welcome in New Hampshire when she arrives for a series of campaign events on Thursday — particularly from 2022 U.S. Senate nominee, retired Gen. Don Bolduc, who sources say will be endorsing her candidacy.
“Republicans are excited, they’re looking forward to it,” former NHGOP vice chair Matt Mayberry said of Haley’s visit. “She’s a serious candidate, she’s got name ID, and I love that she’s doing a town hall on her first visit to the state. That says something about her confidence.”
Haley is scheduled to participate in two town halls during her Granite State visit, at Exeter Town Hall at 6 p.m. Thursday and at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at 6 p.m. Friday.
“There is a lot of interest in Ambassador Haley, especially after her impressive announcement on Wednesday and the fact that she is one of the first candidates coming into New Hampshire,” said NHIOP executive director Neil Levesque. “Republicans are particularly excited about being able to weigh in on their candidates knowing that President Biden’s prospects for reelection are so dim.”
In a recent NHJournal poll, Haley had the backing of about seven percent of likely GOP primary voters, putting her in fourth place. A surveyor NHJournal readers found a similar level of support from people who follow politics closely.
But with the primary nearly a year away and the field just beginning to fill, political pros say it is far too early to make predictions about what will happen in the First in the Nation primary. And kicking off with a major endorsement is a good sign. A source close to the campaign confirmed General Bolduc will endorse Haley and will be at both of her campaign stops.
Friday morning, Bolduc made the endorsement official via Twitter: “I am proud to endorse Nikki Haley for President of the United States! Nikki is exactly who we need leading our country out of the mess we are in.”
Bolduc bucked the GOP establishment at both the state and national level in his primary victory last year, defeating establishment favorite, former New Hampshire state Senate President Chuck Morse. Morse had the endorsement of Gov. Chris Sununu and the backing of GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell. Bolduc’s endorsement would send a signal to the conservative base that Haley is a candidate they can trust.
At the same time, Bolduc’s embrace of election denialism would allow Democrats to turn their “democracy in danger” line of attack against Haley.
Interviews with a broad mix of Granite State Republicans found most had favorable views of Haley, even if they are not ready to commit to her campaign.
“I think Ambassador Haley will be very well received. She certainly was when she came here to campaign with us last year,” said Matt Mowers, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2022. “She’s a strong candidate with an unusual mix of domestic policy success as a governor and foreign policy experience at the United Nations. I think she’ll get an enthusiastic welcome.”
Elizabeth Girard is president of the New Hampshire Federation of Republic Women and while her position prevents her from endorsing candidates, she said she was glad Haley is in the race. “It’s exciting to see a strong, empowered Republican woman like Nikki Haley running for president.”
Girard’s organization is hosting a private, members-only meet and greet with Haley on Friday before her town hall, part of the NHFRW’s new “Women’s Voices” series. “This is a concept we created in an effort to drive more engagement to women voters in the Republican Party,” Girard said.
Several veterans of GOP campaigns said that while Haley said in her announcement speech she rejects identity politics if she ends up being the only woman in the top tier of candidates it could help her in New Hampshire, a state where women candidates have been particularly successful. As recently as 2018, all four members of the federal delegation were women.
Another 2022 U.S. Senate candidate, Vikram Mansharamani is hosting an event for Haley, and said he also sees the town hall approach as a positive.
“I think it’s spectacular that a candidate such as Ambassador Haley is willing to interact directly with voters here in the Granite State. Town halls, small group meetings, house parties — it’s awesome and refreshing. Says a lot about her that she’s willing to meet, speak, and spend time with actual voters rather than merely paying for Facebook ads.”
One person who is not pleased is former President Donald Trump. His campaign greeted Haley’s announcement with a press release headlined “The Real Nikki Haley,” listing criticisms of his former U.N. Ambassador ranging from “Hillary Clinton is an inspiration to Nikki Haley” (as a young mother attending college, she heard Clinton give a speech urging women to run for office) to “Haley Flip-Flops on 2024 Race,” reminding voters she once pledged not to run if Trump chose to.
But a new national poll shows Trump’s support among Republicans continues to slip. In a head-to-head match-up, Trump trailed Gov. Ron DeSantis 53 to 38 percent. Add in the rest of the field — Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, etc. — and Trump is tied with DeSantis at 34 percent.
If Trump isn’t able to lock down the nomination, Haley is among the candidates who will get a good look from Granite State Republicans, campaign veterans said.
“I’ve never heard anyone criticize Haley,” one GOP campaign veteran who is not currently supporting a candidate told NHJournal. “They may not vote for her. There may be someone else they like better. But they all like her. That’s not a bad place to start your campaign.”