While Gov. Ron DeSantis was launching his presidential campaign online (or at least trying to), former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was campaigning across New Hampshire IRL (In Real Life).
Her Wednesday started with a Politics and Eggs breakfast speech at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. It ended that night at a backyard barbeque in Rye, N.H., hosted by fellow former ambassador (and U.S. Senator) Scott Brown, her sixth campaign stop of the day, she told the crowd.
“Nobody is going to outwork me,” Haley said. “And nobody is going to outsmart me.”
It was a message that had particular resonance with the politicos in the room who knew that DeSantis had apparently outsmarted himself by trusting Twitter owner Elon Musk to handle his campaign announcement on an untested platform earlier that evening.
Haley’s event was a low-tech, traditional New Hampshire campaign stop. Billed by Brown and his wife, Gail Huff Brown, as the “No B.S. Backyard BBQ,” rain drove the attendees into the hall to listen to Haley’s remarks. They heard essentially the same speech she had already given several times that day and perhaps 100 times on the campaign trail: Her story of growing up as an Indian-American in rural South Carolina, her record as South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador, and her embrace of American strength abroad and traditional values at home.
It’s a hard-to-miss example of the candidate discipline at the center of the Haley campaign.
“Slow and steady wins the race,” as she told the crowd.
And that’s what those in attendance wanted to hear: What is Haley’s plan to win?
Queries about her political strategy dominated the candidate Q & A. One attendee asked about the impact fellow South Carolinian Sen. Tim Scott’s entrance in the race would have on Haley’s campaign.
“I’m here. He’s not,” was her immediate response. “Not only that, I will put my record up against any candidate in this race.”
The next question was about Haley’s “game plan to punch the bully in the nose.”
Haley didn’t have to ask who the “bully” was.
“I think there are many things President Trump did that I agree with. I was proud to serve in his administration,” Haley said. But she also listed some differences.
“He thinks that January 6 was a beautiful day. I think January 6 was a terrible day. He thinks we don’t need to worry about Russia or Ukraine. I think a Ukraine victory is important to America’s national security. He hasn’t had a problem with [government] spending. The accountant that I am thinks our kids will never forgive us.”
Perhaps most striking was Haley’s unapologetic defense of projecting American power abroad, including steadfast support of Ukraine. It’s a different view from the one offered by many of her fellow Republicans.
David Pendleton, who drove up from Boston, said Haley’s foreign policy is why he is a fan. “I think she should be the nominee. She will ensure that Ukraine wins because it will embolden our enemies if they don’t. We can’t walk away from the world — we’re already too intertwined. It’s a national security issue.”
But another attendee, who declined to give his name, dismissed Haley’s foreign policy as “typical globalist nonsense. It’s just more of the same as everyone else in D.C., starting wars that never should have been started and sending money where it shouldn’t go.”
Haley has been campaigning hard for two months with little progress in the polls. She’s currently at 4.5 percent support in the RealClearPolitics polling average, about where she was in early March.
And she made some unhelpful-in-New-Hampshire headlines during her Politics and Eggs appearance when she said she would sign a federal abortion ban, though she claimed any such legislation could never make it through Congress to get to a president’s desk.
Noting that any federal abortion law would, under current filibuster rules, need 60 votes to get out of the U.S. Senate, Haley added: “We haven’t had 60 Republican senators in 100 years.”
And when a member of the audience asked about her abortion views hurting her in “overwhelmingly pro-choice” New Hampshire, Haley replied, “I can’t suddenly change my pro-life position because I’m campaigning in New Hampshire. It’s incredibly personal, and I’m going to treat it with the respect it deserves.”
As for her chances of success in the 2024 race, Haley reassured the crowd that she was in the hunt.
“The polls you see today, you know they are not going to be the ones we see on the day of the primary,” Haley told the crowd. “By the time I’m done this week, we’ll have held almost 30 events in New Hampshire — and we’re just getting started.”
It was a message that resonated with Carol Harvey of Portsmouth.
“I thought she was fabulous. She’s a scrappy woman who goes after everything she wants and gets it done.”