WASHINGTON, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will kick off her campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination this month, squaring off against her one-time boss, former President Donald Trump, two sources said. aware of her plans on Wednesday.
The move would make her the second confirmed Republican candidate and could set the stage for a more combative phase of the campaign, which could be in the sights of the former US president’s opponent.
Haley’s campaign sent an email to supporters on Wednesday inviting them to a Feb. 15 event in Charleston. She will announce her candidacy there, the sources said.
South Carolina is expected to host one of the first Republican nominating primaries in 2024 and will play an important role in choosing the final candidate.
The daughter of two Indian immigrants who ran a successful clothing store in a rural part of the state, Haley has built a reputation in the Republican Party as a solid conservative who has the ability to address issues of gender and race more credibly than many of her peers.
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She has also positioned herself as a fierce defender of American interests abroad, having served as the US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump from 2017 to 2018. During that time, the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal , was inked under a Democrat. President Barack Obama and there was a lot of desire among Republicans.
One Haley associate said she chose to launch her campaign early to try to get the attention of voters in a race that has so far been dominated by Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has not yet declared whether he will run.
Many top Republican donors and elected officials in South Carolina are seeking alternatives to Trump amid concerns about his electability, according to briefings in recent weeks by more than a dozen party officials and strategists.
Several prominent Republicans, including Haley and US Senator Tim Scott, chose to skip Trump’s campaign appearance in Columbia on Saturday, which was intended to show his support in the state.
Trump told reporters on Saturday that Haley called him to say she was thinking about running and he told her “go ahead if you want to run,” according to multiple media reports.
Haley gained national attention in 2015 when, as governor, she signed a bill into law that removed the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol, following the murder of nine black churchgoers by white supremacist Dylann Roof.
If she wins the nomination, Haley would be the first woman at the top of the Republican presidential ticket in history, as well as the party’s first non-white nominee.
One of her biggest challenges will be sorting out a consistent message. Even in a field where most candidates have changed their minds multiple times on key issues, Haley is particularly chameleonic.
She has repeatedly distanced herself from Trump, only to moderate her rhetoric later, saying he plays an important role in the Republican Party.
While she criticized Republicans for casting doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election, she campaigned for multiple candidates who supported Trump’s false claims of election fraud during the 2022 midterms.
Even though she has sometimes adopted a conciliatory message on racial issues, she often chooses a less measured tone. In November, she said at a campaign rally that Democratic Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, a Black man born in Savannah, should be “deported.”
Geography may be playing into Haley’s hands: South Carolina is historically the third state to host the Republican nomination contest, and often plays an outsized role in the race. Haley, who governed the state from 2011 to 2017, is popular there, polls show.
Both Trump and DeSantis have been active in the state.
Although Haley enters the race as an underdog – most national polls show her support in the single digits – she is used to running from behind, having developed a reputation among politicians for coming out on top in tough races to win.
A campaign spokesman declined to comment Wednesday.
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Gram Slattery; Editing by Ross Colvin, Daniel Wallis and Andrew Heavens
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