On the trail: Haley was first in and last out

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley gestures to the audience as she concludes a speech at a caucus night party in West Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 15, 2024. Haley has suspended her Republican presidential campaign. The former South Carolina governor ended her White House bid Wednesday, March 6. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley gestures to the audience as she concludes a speech at a caucus night party in West Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 15, 2024. Haley has suspended her Republican presidential campaign. The former South Carolina governor ended her White House bid Wednesday, March 6. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr, File) Abbie Parr

By PAUL STEINHAUSER

For the Monitor

Published: 03-06-2024 2:03 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu summarized it best.

The popular Republican governor, who was a top supporter and surrogate to the now-former GOP presidential candidate, said that “Nikki Haley was the first candidate into the arena to challenge Donald Trump, and knocked everyone else out of the race.”

Sununu, who took to social media with a statement soon after Haley announced on Wednesday that she was ending her 2024 White House bid, emphasized that “Nikki is a Patriot and a friend who ran a great campaign, and made sure it was the voters, not the media or party elites, that had the final say.”

Thirteen months after she launched her Republican presidential campaign, the former two-term South Carolina governor who later served as U.N. ambassador in former President Donald Trump’s administration, announced on Wednesday morning that “the time has now come to suspend my campaign.”

“I said I wanted Americans to have  their voices heard. I have done it. I have no regrets. And although I will no longer be a candidate, I will not stop using my voice for the things I believe in,” Haley said as she spoke at her presidential campaign headquarters on Daniel Island, in her hometown of Charleston, S.C.

But Haley did not immediately endorse Trump, who is on course to clinch the GOP presidential nomination in the next week or two.

“It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him. And I hope he does that,” Haley said as she pointed to those who supported her during her White House run.

“This is now his time for choosing,” she emphasized.

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The former president on Tuesday swept 14 of the 15 states from coast to coast that held Republican presidential primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday, moving Trump much closer to locking up the GOP nomination and into a general election rematch with President Joe Biden, who also ran the table in Tuesday’s Democratic contests.

Trump took to his Truth Social platform in a posting as Haley’s speech was wrapping up to take aim at his now former rival.

“Nikki Haley got TROUNCED last night, in record setting fashion,” the former president touted.

Trump also said he’d “like to invite all of the Haley supporters to join the greatest movement in the history of our Nation.”

Biden also issued a statement, complimenting Haley and courting her supporters.

“It takes a lot of courage to run for President – that’s especially true in today’s Republican Party, where so few dare to speak the truth about Donald Trump,” the president wrote. “Nikki Haley was willing to speak the truth about Trump: about the chaos that always follows him, about his inability to see right from wrong, about his cowering before Vladimir Putin.”

And Biden noted that “I know that Democrats and Republicans and Independents disagree on many issues and hold strong convictions. That’s a good thing. That’s what America stands for. But I also know this: what unites Democrats and Republicans and Independents is a love for America.”

Trump’s near sweep of the Super Tuesday states – Haley narrowly edged the former president in Vermont – turned up the volume on calls by fellow Republicans for Haley to end her White House bid.

Haley, who for a month had said she would stay in the race at least through Super Tuesday, held no public event or speech on Tuesday night. She watched election results in private with her campaign team and remained mum on any plans going forward.

In a Republican presidential field that topped a dozen candidates last summer, Haley was the final remaining rival to Trump, who for months has been the commanding frontrunner in the GOP race as he makes his third straight White House bid.

Haley – who in 2021 and 2022 made numerous trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, the two lead-off states in the Republican presidential nominating calendar – formally launched her 2024 campaign in February of last year.

She polled in the single digits for much of last year and faced an uphill climb to win the nomination. But courtesy of well-regarded performances in the late summer and autumn in the first three GOP primary debates, Haley grabbed momentum and saw her poll numbers soar.

Haley in December narrowed the gap with Trump in New Hampshire, thanks in part to a crucial endorsement from Sununu, who started joining her continuously on the campaign trail.

Trump ended up winning the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses by 30 points over Gov. Ron DeSantis, with Haley finishing slightly behind the Florida governor in third place.

DeSantis, who was a distant third and mired in the single digits in the public opinion polls in New Hampshire, dropped out of the race two days before the primary, turning the GOP nomination battle into a two-candidate race between Haley and Trump.

Haley, thanks to strong support from independents, won 43% of the vote in New Hampshire, finishing 11 points behind Trump.

After Trump scored landslides in the Nevada and U.S. Virgin Islands GOP caucuses in early February, the race moved to Haley’s home state of South Carolina. While Haley campaigned relentlessly in her home state and Trump made only a handful of stops, the former president enjoyed the backing of South Carolina’s governor, both senators, and scores of state lawmakers and officials.

But Haley remained defiant and turned up the volume in her criticism of Trump.

The former president ended up topping Haley by 20 points in South Carolina, and he followed that up with an even bigger win three days later in Michigan’s Republican presidential primary. Trump then rolled into Super Tuesday with plenty of momentum, after sweeping the Michigan GOP’s party convention, and winning large victories in the Missouri, Idaho, and North Dakota caucuses.

Haley topped Trump by roughly 30 points in Washington D.C.’s Republican primary last weekend, making history as the first woman to win a GOP presidential primary or caucus.

Haley, who garnered strong support in the GOP primaries from independents and whose fundraising remained formidable, said she was staying in the race as an option for voters dissatisfied with a likely Biden-Trump rematch.

But her run came to an end on Wednesday, as Trump now fully pivots to his general election rematch with Biden.