Skip to content
Nikki Haley Donors Pushing for Chris Christie to Drop Out
Go to my account

Nikki Haley Donors Pushing for Chris Christie to Drop Out

Plus: Trump embraces an endorsement from one Black Lives Matter activist.

Happy Monday! We hope you’re not reading this to procrastinate on your Christmas shopping.

Up to Speed

  • Never Back Down, the Ron DeSantis-supporting super PAC that has played an unusually central role in the Florida governor’s presidential campaign, is experiencing remarkable personnel turmoil just a month and a half out from the Iowa caucuses. Never Back Down chief executive Chris Jankowski stepped down on November 22; Adam Laxalt, chair of the super PAC, announced Friday he would do the same. Then, over the weekend, several key operatives were reportedly fired, including Jankowski’s interim successor Kristin Davison, Director of Operations Matt Palmisano, and Communications Director Erin Perrine. Meanwhile, the DeSantis campaign suggested in a donor memo last week that, while it was still counting on Never Back Down’s early-state field operation, it had greater trust in the TV-ad operation of a newly formed pro-DeSantis super PAC, Fight Right.
  • DeSantis himself this weekend completed his campaign tour of each of Iowa’s 99 counties with a Saturday event in the small town of Newton. “The fact that I’m willing to do this, that should show you that I consider myself a servant, not a ruler,” DeSantis told the crowd, “and that’s how people that get elected should consider themselves.” On Sunday, DeSantis was asked on NBC’s Meet the Press whether Iowa was do or die for his campaign. “We’re going to win Iowa,” DeSantis responded. “I think it’s going to help propel us to the nomination. But I think we’ll have a lot of work that we’ll have to do beyond that.”
  • Former president Donald Trump also spent his weekend in Iowa. At rallies in Ankeny and Cedar Rapids, he continued to air his grievances against Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for choosing to endorse DeSantis. “I mean, that was her choice to do this. But I believe in loyalty,” Trump complained to the Ankeny crowd. “How do you endorse somebody that’s 40 or 50 points down?” The Trump campaign also released a minute-long ad Saturday, stitching together clips of Reynolds praising Trump’s leadership during his first presidential term.
  • Congress is running out of time to pass additional aid to Ukraine, White House Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young warned in a letter to congressional leaders Monday. “Without congressional action, by the end of the year we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from U.S. military stocks,” Young wrote. “There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money—and nearly out of time.”

Haley Donors Plot to Entice Christie Out of GOP Primary

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks alongside former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley during the NBC News Republican Presidential Primary Debate on November 8, 2023, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks alongside former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley during the NBC News Republican Presidential Primary Debate on November 8, 2023, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Wealthy campaign contributors supporting Nikki Haley’s presidential bid have approached counterparts backing Chris Christie to broach whether they might be willing to encourage the former New Jersey governor to exit the Republican primary, multiple sources tell The Dispatch.

Haley, the former South Carolina governor and ex-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has momentum in the race among second-tier GOP candidates to emerge as the consensus alternative to overwhelming frontrunner Donald Trump. But Haley’s financiers fear she will not put herself in a position to challenge the former president, one-on-one, absent more consolidation in the primary. So in recent days, they have contacted counterparts who are funding Christie to raise the issue of convincing him to drop out.

“There are conversations about that; I was asked to help,” a Christie donor told us Saturday. “I said ‘no.’” Separately, at least one veteran Republican donor supporting Haley confirmed awareness of such discussions during a brief telephone interview. Sources on both sides emphasized that these talks were being initiated by Haley financiers and did not involve Haley campaign officials.

Trump leads the Republican field nationally with 61.2 percent support in the RealClearPolitics average. The former president leads ahead of the January 15 Iowa caucuses with 47 percent and leading into the January 23 New Hampshire primary with 45.7 percent. October and November saw consolidation among the group of second tier candidates, as former Vice President Mike Pence and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott suspended their campaigns. Haley, already on the rise beforehand, has benefited.

But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is running second behind Trump in Iowa, backed by a massive voter turnout operation and endorsements from Gov. Kim Reynolds and evangelical activist Bob Vander Plaats. And with Christie competing directly with Haley for votes in New Hampshire, the former ambassador’s moneymen are eager for a further culling of the candidates. Haley supporters are increasingly confident that DeSantis will burn himself out, and there is little worry about biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

But there are worries about Christie. The New Jerseyan has squarely focused on New Hampshire, and he is attracting voters who dislike Trump and who would likely back Haley if he folded his tent. 

Because Christie is now garnering 11.3 percent support in the Granite State—good for third behind Haley’s 18.7 percent and ahead of DeSantis’ 7.7 percent—some Haley backers believe it is imperative that the former governor drop out before the primary to ensure the South Carolinian has an opportunity to take on Trump directly. “If Christie stays in and she loses that 11 percent to 12 percent [in New Hampshire,] that makes it significantly harder; not impossible, but harder,” the Haley donor said.

As of early Monday, Christie contributors appear unmoved. Late last week, the former governor’s finance committee met virtually and outlined plans for four to five fundraising events prior to year’s end. “It was all-go, full throttle,” a second Christie donor said.

The Haley campaign declined to comment for this story. The Christie campaign did not respond to a text message requesting comment.

Trump: BLM Is Good, Actually

For Donald Trump, the central question of politics is: With me or against me? This has been evident since his 2016 campaign, when he famously dragged his feet when asked if he would repudiate the endorsement of former KKK grand wizard David Duke. But the phenomenon doesn’t just extend to the far right—as Trump’s endorsement this week by a self-proclaimed founder of “Black Lives Matter Rhode Island” showed. 

“We’re not stupid—the brothers are not stupid,” Mark Fisher, who also founded the Maryland-based group BLM INCORPORATED, said in an interview on “Fox & Friends” last Wednesday. “[Democrats’] policies are basically racist policies. I believe it’s a racist party. Donald Trump is just the opposite. He’s going to tell you how it is. He’s going to give it to you straight.”

Fisher’s connection to the broader Black Lives Matter movement—a largely decentralized one, although many organizations use the term—is murky. Certainly his views on Trump are not widely shared among Black Lives Matter activists: The Black Lives Matter Global Network and Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC denounced on Thursday Fisher’s comments as a “publicity stunt,” huffing that “the right wing continues to use and amplify fringe Black voices to create an idea of broad support for their corrupt candidates.”

Regardless, Trump’s response was remarkable. In the past, he’d regularly denounced Black Lives Matter, particularly during the summer of racial unrest following the police murder of George Floyd. On the campaign trail, “BLM” has often made it into his litany of evil organizations that must be stamped out for the good of the nation.

“Here’s an idea,” Trump said during a speech in Illinois last year. “Instead of targeting Republicans, conservatives, Christians, and patriotic parents, the Biden administration should try going in and dismantling the Crips. The Bloods. MS-13. How about BLM? How about Antifa? And the other savage street gangs who are turning our communities into war zones?”

Get one endorsement on Fox’s morning programming, though, and things change a bit: “Spoke with Mark Fisher yesterday, a great guy, very honored to have him and BLM’s support,” Trump posted on his website Truth Social. “I have done more for Black people than any other President (Lincoln?), including 10 year funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, where they had none, Opportunity Zones, Criminal Justice Reform, and much more.” 

In the frenzy of in-group signaling that is today’s GOP politics, not just any Republican could get away with this. Take one example: For very online Trump fans, Sen. Mitt Romney’s participation in an evangelical Black Lives Matter march in June 2020 leapt instantly to the top of the heap of his RINO betrayals. 

Ron DeSantis—who relishes rare opportunities to attack Trump from the right—tried to drive in the knife:

BLM praising Donald Trump—and Trump celebrating it—makes perfect sense. When BLM was burning down cities and assaulting police officers in cities across this country, Trump did nothing but sit in the White House tweeting “LAW & ORDER!” We did it differently in Florida. I didn’t just tweet. I took action and called up the National Guard. We were not going to let our cities burn. As president, I will not sit idly by and watch rioters torch American cities.

Trump, however, makes his own in-group. “Did you see where a very respected representative of Black Lives Matter New England endorsed Trump?” he crowed at his Saturday Cedar Rapids event. “He didn’t necessarily say the Republican Party—he said Trump, because what we have done in terms of opportunity zones and jobs for everybody, frankly.”

“It’s a great honor,” he added.

The crowd cheered.

Notable and Quotable 

“I believe very strongly in those principles and ideals that have defined the Republican Party, but the Republican Party of today has made a choice, and they haven’t chosen the Constitution. And so I do think it presents a threat if the Republicans are in the majority in January 2025.”

—Former Rep. Liz Cheney, asked by CBS whether she would prefer for Democrats to retake the House in next year’s election, December 3, 2023

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.