Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign continued to pick up steam — and a key endorsement — Tuesday as the former South Carolina governor once again brought her retail-politics strategy back to the Granite State.
Tuesday morning, Americans for Prosperity Action — the political arm of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity — gave Haley its support.
“At the outset of our strategy, we made clear that we would be business-like in our decision,” the group wrote in a memo. “We would support a candidate capable of turning the page on Washington’s toxic culture – and a candidate who can win. And last night, we concluded that analysis.
“That candidate is Nikki Haley.”
Haley was happy to hear the news.
“I’m honored to have the support of Americans for Prosperity Action, including its millions of grassroots members all across the country,” Haley said in s statement. “AFP Action’s members know that there is too much at stake in this election to sit on the sidelines. This is a choice between freedom and socialism, individual liberty and big government, fiscal responsibility and spiraling debt. We have a country to save, and I’m grateful to have AFP Action by our side.”
On Tuesday evening, more than 300 people packed the Derry Opera House to hear Haley speak and ask her questions. Among those attending were former U.S. Sens. Gordon Humphrey and John E. Sununu, brother of Gov. Chris Sununu.
Haley’s support in New Hampshire polls has more than doubled in the past few months. Asked why he thinks she is having a Granite State moment, Sen. Sununu told NHJournal her resume as a governor and a strong conservative is helping. But he also said he believes she is benefitting from “campaigning the New Hampshire way.”
“She’s done a huge number of town halls, and this one tonight looks well attended,” Sununu said. “The people here aren’t all activists; they’re people who really want to hear a strong, committed message about getting the country moving forward and not backward.”
A “new generation of leadership” was part of Haley’s message in Derry as she delivered her stump speech. Perhaps thanks to the rising poll numbers or increased political buzz, the crowd appeared to be more energized by her remarks than some previous town halls. There were more applause breaks, and the laugh lines got bigger laughs.
And when Haley asked how many people in the room were seeing her speak for the first time, about three-quarters raised their hands.
The AFP Action endorsement is important because of the group’s grassroots organization that can reach GOP primary voters.
“She has what it takes to lead a policy agenda to take on our nation’s biggest challenges and help ensure our country’s best days are ahead,” the AFP memo said. “With the grassroots and data capability we bring to bear in this race, no other organization is better equipped to help her do it.”
Or, as one New Hampshire GOP operative said Tuesday night, “Haley’s been a leader; now she has an army.”
The Koch brothers and their AFP organization are known for their more libertarian politics, as opposed to the more pro-intervention neo-conservative foreign policy promoted by Haley. But if the group was counting on its support to slow down Haley’s embrace of U.S. support for allies abroad, it didn’t show Tuesday night.
Haley continued her passionate advocacy for American military aid going to Ukraine, calling it “a freedom-loving country” that was invaded by “a thug,” Vladimir Putin and his Russian army. She said she didn’t want to send cash, and she doesn’t support “U.S. troops on the ground.” But stopping Putin now is key to preventing a future war between NATO and an ever-expanding Russia.
“If we support Ukraine with equipment and ammunition, that is only three and a half percent of our defense budget,” she added.
On Israel, Haley was even more adamant that America must offer its unconditional support.
“We should give them whatever they need, whenever they need it — no questions asked,” Haley said to applause from the crowd. She also said the only strategy regarding Hamas is to “finish them.”
“It’s never been that Israel needs to America,” Haley said. “It’s always been that America needs Israel because they’re the tip of the spear when it comes to defeating terrorism.”
And, Haley added, U.S. funding aid for Ukraine and Israel and the money needed to secure the border combined “would cost less than 20 percent of Biden’s green subsidies. So don’t tell me it’s about money. It’s about priorities.”
In the crowd was a Jewish Bostonian who drove up to show his support for Haley. Adam, who declined to give his last name, said he appreciated Haley’s strong support for Israel and her willingness to articulate an American foreign policy that keeps the U.S. engaged in the world.
Asked if events in the wake of Oct. 7 are impacting the political thinking of the Jewish community, Adam said yes. “Jews in America tend to be very liberal on issues like women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, things like that. But what happened, and what is happening here in America, has people feeling almost like we’re having another 9-11. Things feel more dangerous than they did before. Something is changing.”
Haley took about a half-dozen questions from the crowd, which ranged from climate change to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine to banning TikTok. (“It is ridiculous that we have not banned TikTok in America,” Haley said.)
But her most pointed political pitch focused on her electability advantage over Donald Trump.
“If you look at the polls, you see Trump is pretty much even with Biden. On a good day, he might be two points up,” Haley said. “In every poll, we beat Biden by 10 to 13 points.”
It was the first time Humphrey had seen Haley speak in person, and he liked what he heard.
“I especially like hearing a candidate address national security because we’ve never been in a more perilous moment, and we’re doing badly,” Humphrey said. “I think it’s important for someone to have executive experience and for someone to have a good grounding in foreign policy. She’s very impressive.”