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Ahead of New Hampshire, Haley Dishes Out ‘Hard Truths’ About Trump
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Ahead of New Hampshire, Haley Dishes Out ‘Hard Truths’ About Trump

Plus: A well-organized Trump campaign feels confident and the pro-life movement marches on.

Happy Monday! A quick word of condolence to the Buffalo Bills fans in our audience and the “wide right” generational trauma they’re re-experiencing this week.

Up to Speed

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Sunday he is dropping out of the presidential race, saying in a video message that “it’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance” and that he had no viable path to the GOP nomination. DeSantis went on to say he would endorse Trump—who has spent the last year calling him “Ron DeSanctimonious” and once accused him of “grooming high school girls with alcohol”—because “we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.” Both Trump and Haley sounded a gracious note in response to the news, with Haley saying at a campaign stop that “he ran a great race, he’s been a good governor, and we wish him well” and Trump saying that DeSantis “ran a really good campaign” at a New Hampshire rally of his own. 
  • Meanwhile, with just one day to go until the New Hampshire primary, Trump is increasing the pressure on Haley to follow DeSantis’s example. “If Nikki Haley loses in New Hampshire—there are only two options,” Trump advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles wrote in a Sunday afternoon campaign memo. The first option: “Nikki Haley drops out, unites behind President Trump, and commits to defeating Joe Biden.” The second: “Nikki Haley prepares to be absolutely DEMOLISHED and EMBARRASSED in her home state of South Carolina.”
  • In a three-minute ad released over the weekend, Haley turned her closing pitch over to Cindy Warmbier, the mother whose son Otto died in 2017 after being imprisoned in North Korea. “We need a leader in the White House who inspires us to become the best versions of ourselves, who understands our fears and pushes us to conquer them,” Warmbier says in a clip taken from Haley’s campaign launch event last year. “I’m here to tell you that we need Nikki Haley fighting for all our children the way she fought for Otto.” Haley’s campaign announced Saturday it was booking $4 million in advertising in South Carolina, suggesting she intends to stay in the race regardless of what happens in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.
  • President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris plan to headline a joint campaign event in Northern Virginia Tuesday that will focus on abortion, an issue they hope to keep front and center for voters going into November’s presidential election. Biden’s campaign also plans to run a new ad in battleground states this week featuring testimony from Austin Dennard, a Texas OB-GYN who says she traveled out of state in 2022 for an abortion after her fetus was diagnosed with a fatal condition. “The choice was completely taken away. I was to continue my pregnancy, putting my life at risk,” Dennard says, facing the camera. “We need leaders that will protect our rights and not take them away, and that’s Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

Haley Goes on Offensive Against Trump—For Real This Time

Republican presidential hopeful and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks with supporters at Deciduous Brewing in Newmarket, while campaigning in New Hampshire on January 21, 2024. (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
Republican presidential hopeful and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks with supporters at Deciduous Brewing in Newmarket, while campaigning in New Hampshire on January 21, 2024. (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

RINDGE, New Hampshire—Nikki Haley has sharpened her critiques of frontrunner Donald Trump in a final flurry of campaign stops, aiming to upset the former president in New Hampshire’s “first in the nation” Republican primary Tuesday.

“I’ve seen all the commercials that you have seen, and every one of Donald Trump’s commercials is a lie,” Haley said here at Franklin Pierce University on Saturday, repeating a line she used at her previous stops in Keene and Peterborough. In Rindge, however, she lingered on the pause as she looked at the crowd of roughly 200 before adding a sarcastic comment she hadn’t included before: “Shocker, right?”

Over the past week in New Hampshire, Haley has mentioned in her stump speech “another hard truth” about Trump: “Chaos follows him.” She prefaces this statement, which always gets nods of approval from the mixture of Republican and independent voters in the crowd, by emphasizing she was “proud to serve America” in the Trump administration. And, Haley always adds for effect, she voted for Trump twice.

But over the weekend, a tone of personal regret crept as she built-up to her “chaos” statement. “We also have to acknowledge some hard truths. Here’s mine,” Haley said. “I voted for Donald Trump twice. I was proud to serve America in his administration. I agree with a lot of his policies. But rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him. Y’all know I’m right. Chaos follows him. And we can’t be a country in disarray and have a world on fire and go through four more years of chaos. We won’t survive it.” 

This time, the line got a loud round of applause.

On Friday, the day before her birthday, Haley got a gift of sorts. At a rally in Concord, Trump—apparently confusing Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—accused her by name for a lack of security at the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 riot. “Nikki Haley, you know they, do you know they destroyed all of the information, all of the evidence, everything, deleted and destroyed all of it. All of it, because of lots of things like Nikki Haley is in charge of security,” Trump said. “We offered her 10,000 people, soldiers, National Guard, whatever they want. They turned it down.”

By the next morning, Haley was mentioning the mistake in her stump speech and in media appearances as part of her ongoing argument that Trump, like President Joe Biden, is too old and has too much baggage to serve another term. “I wasn’t in D.C. on January 6. I had nothing to do with the Capitol,” she told reporters Saturday in Peterborough. “It’s things like that. He said multiple times that he ran against President Obama, he didn’t run against President Obama. These things happen. Because guess what, when you’re 80, that’s what happens. You’re just not as sharp as you used to be.”

Will any of it matter? The final Emerson College poll of the New Hampshire primary gives Trump a 15-point lead over Haley, 50 percent to 35 percent, showing a bump for both candidates since the previous Emerson poll earlier this month. But this poll is in line with other recent polls showing Trump with a majority of support from likely primary voters and Haley unable to break 40 percent.

But if Haley is able to generate a last-minute surge of support, particularly from independent voters who are not too thrilled about a Trump-Biden rematch, she may be able to thank her more pointed attacks on Trump. If not, Haley may be left wondering if going after the former president more forcefully earlier in the race might have helped damage Trump long before the GOP started voting—or if there was never any chance for Republicans to be coaxed away from their beloved leader.

Trump Campaign on Track in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire—Voters in the Granite State will render a final decision at tomorrow’s crucial Republican primary. Nikki Haley may yet surprise the political pundits, which is something we could never say about her—or departed presidential contender Ron DeSantis—in the Iowa caucuses.

But Donald Trump appears headed for the checkered flag on the strength of a professionally run campaign, broad support from the GOP establishment, and most importantly, the strong backing of grassroots Republicans. As all of the available polling in New Hampshire suggests, more voters here than not adore the former president. They categorically reject any notion that the controversies swirling around him—during his tenure and since—are disqualifying.

“What is there not to like about him?” Paula Johnson, an elderly voter clad in a red, “Trump 2024” scarf, told The Dispatch as she exited the Trump campaign’s Manchester headquarters after listening to Rep. Elise Stefanik deliver a rousing speech in support of the former president. “He wants to secure the borders; he wants to bring the gas prices down again; he wants to make America great again—end the wars, fight crime, bring down inflation.”

“What did he do wrong?” Johnson added. “It’s what they’ve done to him. Let’s face it: They’ve indicted him, they’ve tried to take him out as president—they did Russia, Russia, Russia on him. Congress spent all our money versus representing we the people. That’s the problem. Congress needs to start representing ‘We the People.’ This is the people’s president and that’s why we support him. He loves us; he loves our country.”

The energy inside the Trump campaign’s nondescript campaign office on a frigid Saturday morning here was palpable. The mood was festive.

The former president’s supporters, campaign volunteers, and a throng of reporters jammed into the tight space to hear Stefanik, the New York Republican emerging as one of the campaign’s top surrogates. Stefanik rallied the troops, offering prizes to volunteers who made the most phone calls—baseball caps autographed by Trump and other paraphernalia—before singing the former president’s praises to the media and dumping on Haley.

“You just see, again, the momentum, and the people are going to deliver this victory in support of Donald Trump,” Stefanik told reporters afterward, exhorting the crowd to get out the vote. “Nikki Haley has been disloyal to President Trump; she’s been disloyal to the American people.” Stefanik has been mentioned as a possible running mate for the former president.

The dozens of phone banks at the Manchester headquarters, and the volunteers filling them, revealed something else about the former president’s 2024 effort: This is not eight years ago. Back then, his disorganized bid relied on organic support fueled by nothing more than his raucous, big-tent style political rallies. Now, this is a modern, effective campaign operation, overseen by seasoned operatives—Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles in particular. And it’s poised to bear fruit in New Hampshire, as it did in Iowa

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment. But on Saturday, the New Hampshire Journal reported that the former president’s bid to effectively close out the GOP primary in the Granite State is buoyed by local volunteers who know their communities well. They’re knocking on doors and phone-banking daily, all to ensure Trump voters show up at the polls on Tuesday.

“We have 2,000 active volunteers across the state from Rockingham to the North Country. Yesterday alone, we had more than 350 of them knocking doors and making phone calls,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt told the Journal. “We still win because we’re crushing Haley three-to-one with Republicans, who we know are going to turn out.”

After Electoral Setbacks, Pro-Life Activists Take Long View

Roe v. Wade is dead, but tens of thousands of pro-life activists continue to show up each January around the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision for the March for Life. This year’s march took place on Friday, in the middle of a snowstorm. 

In response to several states rejecting anti-abortion policy via referendums, pro-life activists took the long view, acknowledging they have much more work to do. “Lives are being saved. Yeah, we’ll have a setback here and there—every human rights struggle does,” GOP Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey said in his speech at a rally before the march. “But we are undeterred. We will not give up. At least 25 states now have statutes that are either in effect or being litigated that protect life.”

“There’s going to be wins and losses. It’s just like throughout American history,” Jim Koehr, a marcher from Warrenton, Virginia, told The Dispatch. “I don’t know that it will ever end. I pray that it will.”

For the second year in a row, the march that began across from the White House ended at Congress rather than the Supreme Court, reflecting the fact that the issue has been returned to the legislative process. But listening to the speakers on stage at the rally, it was clear that the federal agenda for Republicans is far more modest than pro-life organizations had hoped back in 2022. While those groups urged Republicans in Congress to rally behind a federal limit on late-term abortion, no such consensus has emerged. 

A wide array of GOP senators—including Mitch McConnnell, Marco Rubio, and Mitt Romney—spoke words of encouragement in a video played at the rally before the march, but there was almost no mention of a positive federal policy agenda. When Rep. Smith and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson took the stage at the rally before the march, they focused on playing defense—stopping federal funding of elective abortion; blocking the passage of a sweeping federal abortion-rights law; and reversing a new rule proposed by the Biden administration to cut off Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding for pregnancy resource centers, charities that counsel against abortion and provide resources like diapers, formula, clothing, and housing assistance to women in need.

Marchers expressed disappointment with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s attack on Florida’s heartbeat law as “terrible.” Still, the ones who spoke to The Dispatch said that a Trump-Biden rematch would ultimately be an easy decision for them. “There’s no perfect candidate available,” said Koehr.We’re talking about defunding pregnancy centers that are volunteers giving their lives to help women. Why would we defund that? I mean, that is just so bizarre, that you could almost vote for anybody.”

Another attendee, a Colorado woman named Becky who declined to share her last name, said that Trump was “going to have to be more careful with his language or he is going to lose this crowd.” She added, however, that she could still easily vote for him in a rematch against Biden.

“Hopefully he’s going to retract some of those comments,” said Greta Wagley of Spokane, Washington. “Trump says a lot of things, but the one substantive thing he did was appoint Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, so I’m happy with that. I’m sad about his recent comments. I hope that was his usual campaign bluster. But we’ll see.”

Notable and Quotable

“I told friends two weeks ago, after two margaritas, that I couldn’t possibly vote for Biden because of this Middle East thing. But I’ll mellow out before Tuesday. And I’ll be sober.” 

—New Hampshire voter Sandy Keans to Semafor after hearing Rep. Dean Phillips speak in Rochester, January 21, 2024

Also Notable and Quotable

“Not only were our lives in danger, but if my kids were here their lives would have been in danger too—the two most precious people in my life. … I believe we need to hold the president accountable. I hold him accountable for the events that transpired, for the attack on our Capitol last Wednesday.” 

—South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace on Donald Trump, January 13, 2021

“I don’t see eye to eye perfectly with any candidate. And until now I’ve stayed out of it, but the time has come to unite behind our nominee.” 

—South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace on Donald Trump, January 22, 2024

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.

John McCormack is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was Washington correspondent at National Review and a senior writer at The Weekly Standard. When John is not reporting on politics and policy, he is probably enjoying life with his wife in northern Virginia or having fun visiting family in Wisconsin.