Estimated reading time 5 minutes 5 Min

Nikki Haley, Trump’s first major challenger, urges Republicans to turn the page

Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley brought her nascent campaign to New Hampshire on Thursday, portraying herself as a conservative firebrand while warning that to win elections Republicans must stop rehashing “old issues”.

February 17, 2023
By Richard Cowan
17 February 2023

By Richard Cowan

EXETER, N.H., Feb 16 (Reuters) – Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley brought her nascent campaign to New Hampshire on Thursday, portraying herself as a conservative firebrand while warning that to win elections Republicans must stop rehashing “old issues”.

Speaking to a crowd of around 300 inside the Exeter Town Hall, about 45 miles (70 km) north of Boston in southern New Hampshire, Haley wrapped up her appearance noting that Republicans, time after time, have lost the popular vote in presidential elections.

“That means Republicans are doing something wrong,” Haley said, adding that the party needed to “stop talking about old issues. And we need to start looking forward.”

Haley’s only major opponent so far in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is former President Donald Trump, who twice lost the popular vote. For over two years he has claimed that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him because of voter fraud – an allegation that has never been substantiated.

Even so, the Haley campaign chose Trump-backed Republican Don Bolduc to introduce her to New Hampshire voters.

Last November, the hard-right Bolduc, who at times embraced Trump’s stolen election conspiracy theory, failed to win a U.S. Senate seat in New Hampshire, while voters reelected Republican Governor Chris Sununu, a far more moderate voice than Trump’s.


The Exeter “town hall meeting” by Haley, a former U.N. ambassador, was an opportunity to boost her national profile and build momentum in a state that plays a key role in picking presidents.

Haley this week became just the second major Republican to say she is seeking the party’s presidential nomination in 2024, taking on her old boss, Trump. The 51-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants held her first campaign event on Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina.

Some residents who came to see Haley in New Hampshire told Reuters that they are hungry for a Republican who will advance the low-tax, low-regulation policies of Trump – but without the divisive personality of the ex-president.

“No more calling names, no more obtuse statements, no more lunacy around denying elections. No more lunacy will get me half way there” to voting Republican in 2024, said Leon Nicholas, a 51-year-old manufacturing consultant from nearby Stratham.

Nicholas was referring to possibly returning to the Republican fold after twice voting against Trump in 2016 and 2020.

Describing himself as a “center-right” Republican, he said he was “looking for a candidate like Nikki Haley for example” who can win enough primary elections next year to avoid a splintering of the party, which could lead to another Trump nomination.

Some, like Craig Ostroff, a 50-year-old pharmacist, described Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is thought to be mulling a run for the White House, as “interesting” but added, “his policies are kind of scary to me.”

Ostroff and his son Joseph came to see whether Haley might be a better alternative.

Haley kicked off her speech by describing her career as a state legislator and South Carolina governor. She also highlighted her work as Trump’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as showing that she can stand up to geopolitical foes, including China and Russia.

“Everything I’ve ever done I’ve pushed against the status quo,” she said of battles against establishment politicians.

In an easy-going voice tinged with a southern accent she touched on issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear program and China’s challenges to the West to inflation and the need to secure the southern border with Mexico – all standard conservative Republican issues.


Trump won the New Hampshire primary in 2016, setting the stage for his successful first campaign, and easily won the nomination a second time in 2020 before losing his reelection bid to Democrat Joe Biden.

In the first days of her campaign, Haley has stressed the need for generational change. Trump is 76, and Biden, who is expected to seek reelection but has not officially launched a campaign, is 80.

Haley faces a tough road ahead. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday found that just 4% of registered Republicans supported the former governor for president.

Trump received support from 43% of registered Republicans in the poll conducted from Feb. 6-13, while 31% said they supported Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to launch a campaign but has not yet done so.

Nancy Parker, also of Hampton Falls, will take some convincing.

“I think Nikki Haley has a lot of potential but I just want to see for myself what she has to say. She has a reputation of being a bit of a flip-flopper,” Parker said, adding, “She’s changed her mind on many important items over the last two years, but I’m still willing to come and listen to her.”

The Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary have traditionally been the first two events of the U.S. presidential nominating season.

Democrats this year have voted to bypass those two states, which are less diverse than the nation at large, in favor of kicking off in South Carolina. Republicans plan to stick to the traditional path.

Next week, Haley will head to Iowa for a pair of campaign stops. (Reporting by Richard Cowan in Exeter, N.H. and Gram Slattery in Charleston, S.C.; Editing by Scott Malone, Bill Berkrot, Don Durfee and Simon Cameron-Moore)

More in Top Stories