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Nikki Haley Knocks Donald Trump’s China Policy
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Nikki Haley Knocks Donald Trump’s China Policy

Plus: Scott Walker on the open Senate primary in Wisconsin.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at the American Enterprise Institute on June 27, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Happy Wednesday! Pour one out for Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who—fresh off the high of his GOP presidential launch last week—walked unprepared into the buzzsaw of a Hugh Hewitt interview Tuesday. “Will you be talking about the Uyghurs during your campaign?” Hewitt asked. “What’s a Uyghur?” Suarez replied. The candidate later claimed he is familiar with the ethnic group facing oppression and genocide in China, but had been thrown by Hewitt’s pronunciation of the word.

Up to Speed

  • President Joe Biden will travel to Chicago today for a speech focused on his economic agenda, which his campaign has begun talking up as “Bidenomics.” The president plans to highlight recent favorable economic numbers and spotlight his best economic top lines, like the fact that the U.S. economy has added 13 million jobs under his tenure. Voters’ economic outlook has soured during Biden’s term, with voter approval of his handling of the economy sinking from 60 percent in March 2021 to 33 percent last month, according to AP polling.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis laid out his border agenda Monday during a campaign visit to the border city of Eagle Pass, Texas, promising to finish building the border wall, end birthright citizenship, and use the military to break up Mexican drug cartels. He also suggested deadly force would be appropriate against some illegal immigrants: “Once you cut through the wall, you have hostile intent because you’re obviously running drugs,” he told NBC News. “You absolutely can use deadly force.”
  • On Tuesday, DeSantis headed for New Hampshire for his first voter town hall, where he distanced himself from Donald Trump’s 2020 stolen election claims, saying that if the 2024 election is “about litigating things that happened two, three years ago, we’re going to lose.” Also on Tuesday, Trump headlined a luncheon with the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women.
  • Tim Sheehy, an accomplished businessman and military veteran, announced Tuesday that he will run to unseat Montana Senator Jon Tester. Sheehy was heavily recruited by Republican leadership and received a major endorsement from Steve Daines, Montana’s other senator and the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The endorsement undermines a potential bid by Rep. Matt Rosendale, who lost to Tester in 2018. (Rosendale was not pleased with the decision.)
  • Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said Tuesday he plans to run for re-election. “There’s too much to do, I just don’t feel like this is the time to quit,” said King, who is 78.

‘He Showed Weakness’: Nikki Haley Kicks Trump on China

Nikki Haley has started kicking sideways.

In a Tuesday speech, the former governor and ambassador and current presidential candidate unveiled details of her China policy—and used the opportunity to denounce Donald Trump’s approach to Beijing as wholly inadequate. It was the sort of criticism Haley once dismissed as “kicking sideways” versus “kicking forward” at President Joe Biden—whose dealings with China she also dissected during a speech and subsequent Q&A at the headquarters of the conservative American Enterprise Institute here in Washington.

“President Trump was almost singularly focused on our trade relationship with China,” Haley argued. “But Trump did too little about the rest of the Chinese threat. … He did not put us on a stronger military foothold in Asia. He did not stop the flow of American technology and investment into the Chinese military. He did not effectively rally our allies against the Chinese threat.”

Haley didn’t stop there.

“He also showed moral weakness,” she said. “In his zeal to befriend President Xi, Trump congratulated the Communist Party on its 70th anniversary of conquering China. That sent the wrong message to the world. Chinese communism must be condemned, never congratulated. China was militarily stronger when President Trump left office than when he entered.” 

Then came the spoonful of sugar: “But Joe Biden’s record is much worse.”

“The list of President Biden’s failures in China is long,” Haley said. “Mark my words: He’s going to keep ignoring the Chinese threat. We’ll have wasted four more years.” Asked to comment on Haley’s charges, White House spokesman Andrew Bates emailed a sarcastic reply: “Who?” 

The Trump campaign rejected Haley’s characterization of the former president’s leadership. “President Trump protected American workers from being ripped off by China and held China accountable for unleashing the Wuhan flu upon the world. There is nobody stronger and more effective than President Trump,” spokesman Steven Cheung told The Dispatch.

Haley, 51, has been stuck in the low single digits in Republican primary polling since entering the race in February. The second quarter fundraising period, which closes Friday, could provide a key window into the strength of her campaign as the summer gets underway and the first August debate approaches.

Haley was not only unsparing with Trump—her own proposals for combating the threat China poses to U.S. global supremacy were comprehensive and specific. They included forcing China to sell its U.S. land holdings, banning lobbying from Chinese Communist Party officials and banning former U.S. lawmakers and military leaders from lobbying on China’s behalf, strengthening Taiwan’s ability to defend itself from Chinese aggression, and helping Ukraine defeat Russia’s invasion—a prospect that she characterized as an enormous potential loss for China.

Taking questions after the speech Tuesday, Haley made clear she is not proposing to jettison the “One China” policy and formally recognize Taiwan as an independent nation. “They themselves haven’t said they want to be independent,” Haley told The Dispatch. “I don’t think it’s up to us to say what they should do. They have to say it, first.” 

How would Haley respond to Beijing’s growing military and intelligence presence in Cuba? As president, Haley said, she would give China an ultimatum: Dismantle your intelligence gathering station in the communist Caribbean island nation or risk the complete loss of economic ties to the U.S.

“You can’t have our biggest enemy—literally—on our doorstep,” she said. “If we have to end all normal trade practices with China—there’s nothing more damaging to China than for us to do that, and our national security is worth it … If that means you’re doing a full-on decoupling, that means you’re doing a full-on decoupling.”

Scott Walker Weighs in on 2024 Wisconsin Senate Race

Scott Walker would like nothing better than to turf out two-term Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin this cycle. But the Republican former governor acknowledges that will be a tall order next year.

“She works hard. She’s got a big war chest,” says Walker, who now serves as president of the conservative youth organization Young America’s Foundation. “Even though she’s liberal, she’s got a persona in the state of Wisconsin that’s either neutral or kind of positive—not that that matches her voting record. But as we all know, perception is reality oftentimes in these races.”

Baldwin, who votes with President Joe Biden more than 95 percent of the time according to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker, works hard to keep up that perception, in large part by courting the agriculture industry: She’s recently partnered with Republicans on efforts to stop plant-based beverages from being marketed as “milk” (a dairy priority) and to remove the gray wolf from the endangered-species list in states like Wisconsin, where state-approved wolf hunts to protect farmers’ livestock are common. 

Walker’s right that Wisconsin Republicans will need an exceptional candidate to give Baldwin a tough general election race. Two years after Donald Trump carried the state, Baldwin won her most recent reelection by eleven points.

Not that the former governor is eager to volunteer as tribute. Like other Republican governors who have ruled out Senate runs in recent years (Doug Ducey of Arizona, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, and Larry Hogan of Maryland), Walker tells The Dispatch he would “be bored in the Senate” and that he’s focused on bringing young voters into the GOP fold through his work at YAF.

Republicans’ hopes of pulling top prospect Rep. Mike Gallagher into the race were dashed earlier this month when the four-term congressman ruled out a run, opting instead to keep his focus on chairing the House Select Committee on China.

With Gallagher out, all eyes are on businessman Scott Mayer, GOP Rep. Tom Tiffany, former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, and real estate developer Eric Hovde, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP Senate nomination in 2012 and has deep pockets. Any Republican who wants a decent shot of beating Baldwin will need to figure out how to navigate independent voters’ views about abortion and Donald Trump, who won the state in 2016 and lost it by a whisker in 2020.

“It’s going to take a strong candidate who can either raise or put in—or probably both—enough money to play catch-up to Baldwin’s money,” says Walker, who adds he has spoken to some of the candidates about their plans. “Plus just a quality candidate with a good appeal, and someone who can do a more effective job of harnessing attention on issues like the economy and safety and other things, and less on the issues the left has been successful on.”

What if Trump wins the GOP presidential nomination in 2024? In that case, Walker says, the Wisconsin GOP’s Senate nominee will need to cast himself as a candidate who is independent of Trump but not anti-Trump. “It’s a careful, careful balance, but it can be done,” Walker says, pointing to Republican Sen. Ron Johnson’s 2016 victory with Trump on the ticket.

Most of those candidates are keeping quiet about their plans for now, though Tiffany confirms to The Dispatch he will make a decision by August and Mayer has previously said his announcement deadline is Labor Day.

Walker insists another name to watch in the “maybe” camp is GOP Rep. Bryan Steil, whose district may be chopped up by the soon to be liberal-leaning state Supreme Court once the newly-elected judge, Janet Protasiewicz, is sworn in, though Steil’s team has repeatedly said the congressman will seek reelection in the House. 

Notable and Quotable

“Can [Trump] win that election? Yeah, he can. The question is, is he the strongest to win the election? I don’t know that answer.”

—House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on CNBC, Tuesday, June 27 in the morning

“As usual, the media is attempting to drive a wedge between President Trump and House Republicans … The only reason Biden is using his weaponized federal government to go after President Trump is because he is Biden’s strongest political opponent, as polling continues to show.”

—House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to Trump-friendly outlet Breitbart, Tuesday, June 27 in the afternoon

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.

Audrey is a former reporter for The Dispatch.

Thomas Dorsey is an intern for The Dispatch.