Attending a Nikki Haley town hall meeting is like stepping into a time machine and traveling back to 2011. To borrow a line Haley used to conjure nostalgic memories of growing up in some mythical Eden, do you remember how simple life was, how safe you felt then?

There was the candidate in Barrington Tuesday, gamely delivering a polished pitch at 1.5 speed and taking questions from a modest-sized audience of 60 people at Turbocam like traditional mainstream Republican candidates used to do. To her credit, Haley has probably done more town halls in New Hampshire this cycle than the rest of the field combined.

And because it is 2011 in the Haley campaign, there was no need for the candidate to mention among her accomplishments as governor of South Carolina how she removed the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in 2015 or her endorsement of Marco Rubio for president in 2016.

Nikki Haley town hall in Barrington, N.H. on July 25, 2023.

And there was absolutely, positively, no reason at all to mention former President Donald Trump, who did not yet exist on the political scene. “Then I got the call for the United Nations. When you get the call to serve your country, you jump,” Haley recalled by way of explaining how she transitioned out of the governor’s office. It was as though no one was on the other end of the phone when she answered it. In whose administration did she serve? The audience could only guess.

She delivered a crisp 27-minute stump speech covering her rise to governor, her time at the U.N., and her views on domestic policy and international relations. After fielding six questions from the audience over 19 minutes, she then hung around for one-on-ones and pictures until everyone who wanted a moment with her got it.

Haley leaned in hard on immigration. “You’re not ready for what I saw” at the border, Haley said. The border gives Haley not one but two boogeymen: Migrants and China. According to Haley, China is supplying cartels with drugs that migrants carry over the border. Those same migrants, according to Haley, go through the trouble of bringing their children along for the journey only to then decide to abandon the kids on Texas ranches in the middle of the night.

Haley’s remarks weren’t punctuated with many laughs or applause. Doesn’t she recognize that since 2015, this is all about entertainment? Haley tread lightly on the culture war, but one of her few lines that did get people clapping came when she said schools shouldn’t keep information from parents. Another applause line came about “ending gender pronoun training in the military.”

It wasn’t until a questioner asked Haley about Trump that she acknowledged him. “Everyone’s worried it’s 2016 again. It’s not,” Haley began. First of all, in 2016, there were 17 candidates, and this time there are only 12, she reasoned. Second, only six or seven of them are likely to make the debates. Haley was too polite to add, “And you’re not going to be one of them, Mike Pence.” The debates, she said, will be when the race starts to move. She talked about how Ted Cruz – who had addressed a much bigger crowd in that same room at Turbocam in 2015 – rose steadily that year and eventually won Iowa.

The topic of Ukraine also waited until Q&A. Haley continued to pitch a policy that seemed calculated to try to win over Rand Paul and Ronald Reagan: We need to win in Ukraine, but shouldn’t spend any of our money to help. Instead, our allies should supply needed equipment. In summary, America should look to Belgium for leadership when it comes to Ukraine.

Former state Sen. John Reagan, a Haley supporter, was in the audience. Absent from this event was Don Bolduc, the 2022 U.S. Senate nominee who endorsed Haley and introduced her at many of her early campaign events.