Skip to Content

As Trump leans on former 2024 rivals, Haley’s support remains elusive

<i>Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Former President Donald Trump and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley
Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Former President Donald Trump and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

By Steve Contorno, Jeff Zeleny, Alayna Treene and Kristen Holmes, CNN

(CNN) — Donald Trump has converted several former primary rivals into outspoken backers, unleashing some to defend him on cable news and others to raise money for his White House bid.

But the contender whose support Trump has yet to earn is the one who has continued to siphon hundreds of thousands of votes from the former president long after their race ended: Nikki Haley.

The former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations under Trump emerged from the 2024 Republican primary as the former president’s last-standing opponent. Their acrimony is no longer in the headlines, but neither one has worked to smooth over the tensions that existed between them when Haley left the race on March 6.

“He knows how to reach her if he wants to make amends and try to start winning over her supporters,” a longtime Haley friend told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive subject and avoid betraying confidences.

Three sources close to the Trump campaign confirmed that there has been no such outreach from either side. One senior adviser argued that Haley’s camp would have to instigate the conversation, an assertion rejected by those around the former governor.

Trump has eagerly welcomed other erstwhile 2024 opponents into the fold. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum have become top surrogates for him since ending their campaigns and have received running mate consideration. All three have appeared on television in recent weeks to defend Trump as his hush money trial plays out in Manhattan.

On Sunday, Trump also buried the hatchet with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who hadn’t spoken to the former president since ending his White House bid in January but has now agreed to help fundraise for the Republican ticket, according to people with knowledge of their conversation.

Trump’s lingering friction with Haley stems from the heated end to a primary battle that saw both sides intensify their firepower on each other as the field thinned. Though she hesitated to criticize her former boss early in the race, Haley down the stretch fiercely litigated the case against a second Trump term during her ultimately unsuccessful push to overtake him in a one-on-one race.

Trump’s attacks grew increasingly personal the longer Haley fought on despite the diminishing odds. During a February rally in Haley’s home state of South Carolina, Trump asked his crowd, “Where’s her husband? Oh, he’s away.” Haley’s husband was deployed at the time in Africa with the South Carolina National Guard. She called the quip “disgusting.”

As Haley ended her candidacy, she did not endorse Trump. Instead, she said it was up to him “to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him. And I hope he does that.”

Three people close to Haley said there is no evidence yet of Trump doing any such thing.

While Trump has handily won Republican primary contests throughout the winter and spring, Haley has consistently earned a significant share of the vote, including nearly 17% in Pennsylvania last week, where only registered Republicans were allowed to cast ballots.

One Republican operative in Pennsylvania, a critical battleground this fall, expressed concern that Trump wasn’t doing the outreach he should to Haley voters, warning that it could cost him the state.

President Joe Biden’s campaign has sought to capitalize on the lingering rift between Trump’s MAGA base and Haley’s coalition of suburban and college-educated voters. After the Pennsylvania primary, Biden’s campaign targeted Haley supporters with digital ads extending an olive branch to join him in defeating Trump.

The Biden campaign intends to pay a particular focus to Haley voters from the Philadelphia suburbs, including Chester and Montgomery counties, where she received 25% of the primary vote.

“At the Biden campaign, we will earn their vote,” spokesman James Singer said in a statement earlier this week. “As President Biden said, Democrats and Republicans and Independents disagree on many issues and hold strong convictions, but what unites Democrats and Republicans and Independents is a love for America.”

A game of chicken

Haley is not alone among 2024 hopefuls who have declined to coalesce behind the former president. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made clear after dropping out of the race that he would not vote for Trump “under any circumstances.” Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, said last month that he “cannot in good conscience” endorse his onetime boss, though he didn’t rule out voting for him.

Ultimately, though, Pence and Christie had marginal support from Republican voters. That wasn’t the case for Haley, who has earned 97 delegates and won the Vermont and Washington, DC, primaries.

Since ending her campaign the day after Super Tuesday, Haley has largely receded from public view to spend time with her family. Her husband, Michael, returned from his yearlong deployment.

In her farewell address in Charleston, Haley congratulated Trump and wished him well as he moved closer to clinching the Republican nomination. The two have not spoken since.

“It’s kind of where we left things in March,” one Haley associate said. “They haven’t reached out, and we haven’t reached out.”

People close to Trump argue that he has put aside differences in the past to unite the party, and they insist that the former president would likely be amenable to meeting with Haley, especially if she pledged her support and offered to boost his campaign. Trump himself has referred to her as “tough” and told one person recently that she put up a good fight.

“If Haley were to send an emissary to have a conversation, Trump would be likely be open to that,” one person close to Trump said.

His advisers also privately acknowledge that Haley, a prolific fundraiser while a presidential candidate, appeals to many of the independent voters they view as crucial to Trump’s pathway to success.

But they remain adamant that Haley must make the first move.

“When you lose the battle or the war, you generally have to make the outreach, and that’s just the nature of the campaign business,” the Trump adviser said.

A Florida truce

A similar game of chicken between Trump and DeSantis ended last weekend over breakfast in Miami. The detente, arranged at DeSantis’ request by Trump’s longtime friend and luxury real estate developer Steve Witkoff, came three months after the governor dropped out and endorsed Trump. During that time, DeSantis didn’t call Trump to formally offer his support, and he ruffled the former president’s team with his early maneuvering to salvage his political future.

Trump called the meeting with DeSantis “great,” writing on social media, “The conversation mostly concerned how we would work closely together to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.”

Though DeSantis once scoffed at Trump for steering campaign money toward his legal bills, the Florida governor has agreed to help raise money to help the presumptive Republican nominee win back the White House. The expectation within Trump’s orbit is that DeSantis can encourage his donors who remain on the sidelines to get involved and those who have contributed to give more.

“There’s some that I think still have a lot of high hopes for DeSantis’ future, and they may not have come to us with the full vigor and check-writing that has yet to be exploited or utilized,” the Trump adviser said.

The extent of DeSantis’ involvement, though, remains uncertain. DeSantis is not expected to appear at the Trump-Republican National Committee joint fundraising committee’s events this weekend, though it will be held in Palm Beach. DeSantis may bump into Trump at the nearby Formula One Miami Grand Prix, a source close to the Florida governor said.

Nor are there plans for DeSantis to join Trump on the campaign trail any time soon.

Meanwhile, DeSantis intends to open a state fundraising committee in Florida to re-engage donors and collect checks for his own political interests, a person with knowledge of the plans said, calling the move “imminent.” The governor remains committed as well to defeating two state constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall in Florida – one that would guarantee abortion access through fetal viability and another that would legalize recreational marijuana.

The person said DeSantis’ willingness to help Trump was “genuine” but added that it’s not clear to anyone in the governor’s camp what that would look like. DeSantis in March said he was open to “help nationally” but didn’t anticipate much interest in having him stump for Trump in Florida given the state’s rightward turn.

“Independents in Michigan and Wisconsin are not going to vote for Donald Trump because Ron DeSantis campaigned for him there,” the person said.

The same may not be true of Haley. She earned support from nearly 27% of Michigan GOP primary voters and captured four of the state’s delegates. And she managed about 13% of the primary vote in Wisconsin even after she dropped out.

Trump “doesn’t need Haley to win,” a friend of the former governor said, “but he can’t do it without her voters.”

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content