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Haley makes pitch to Mainers ahead of Super Tuesday, calls for return to ‘normal’

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Haley makes pitch to Mainers ahead of Super Tuesday, calls for return to ‘normal’

Mar 03, 2024 | 9:16 pm ET
By Emma Davis
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Haley makes pitch to Mainers ahead of Super Tuesday, calls for return to ‘normal’
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Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley spoke to a crowd of a couple hundred supporters on March 3 in Portland. (Maine Morning Star/ Emma Davis)

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley made her Super Tuesday pitch to Mainers on Sunday night, positioning a vote for her as one for change compared with opting for more of the same from President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.  

Just minutes before nabbing her first victory in the Washington, D.C., Republican primary, the former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations drew a crowd of a couple hundred at the Maine Elks Lodge in Portland, where she called for fiscal discipline and smaller government.

“Don’t you think it’s finally time we had an accountant in the White House?” Haley asked the crowd, who met her with eager cheers. 

Her message resonated with voters of various ages and political persuasions, including independent voters Meg and Milton Bullock of Kittery, who both cast early ballots for Haley. 

For Milton, the decision was all about “character, character, character.” Meg said she wanted to throw her support behind a candidate who is respectful, and Haley’s young age, 52, relative to Trump, 77, and Biden, 81, was also a factor. 

They’d both been registered Republicans at one time, as well as Democrats. Now, they’re not satisfied with either party, or either party’s frontrunner in the primary.

As the last remaining challenger to Trump for the Republican nomination, Haley also took the opportunity to draw a line between her intentions and his past actions. Citing Trump’s use of campaign donations for legal fees from his multiple criminal and civil cases, Haley told the crowd she would not put herself over the American people.

Haley makes pitch to Mainers ahead of Super Tuesday, calls for return to ‘normal’
Colby College students Chris Milmoe, Cormac Wight and Christopher Maichin traveled to Portland on March 3 to show their support for Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. (Maine Morning Star/ Emma Davis)

Colby College sophomore Christopher Maichin, a Republican, said a major reason why he will be voting for Haley is to ensure Trump does not get reelected. Maichin started “Students for Haley” on his campus after hearing her debate in August, during which, much like the Bullocks’ view, her character stood out to him. 

“She’s completely right about needing a new generational leader,” Maichin said.

During Sunday’s speech, Haley spoke directly to the concerns of young people like Maichin. 

“They worry about whether they’re going to get a job. They worry about how they’re going to make ends meet. They don’t think they’re ever going to be able to afford a home, and they worry about wars around the world,” Haley said. “All of this is under an umbrella of anger and division, and then we want to know why there’s so much stress and anxiety and depression.”

Haley arrived in Portland after rallying voters in Vermont earlier in the day, part of a campaign tour through New England days ahead of the presidential primary in Maine and 14 other states (and one U.S. territory) on March 5.

While Maine is part of the biggest primary election day, it has not been a major stop on the campaign trail. Neither Trump nor Biden have campaigned in Maine, though independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson made stops in the fall. 

With mostly decisive victories in other state primaries so far, a Trump-Biden rematch is most likely, forgoing any major legal or ballot eligibility developments on Trump’s end. However, as Haley wrapped up remarks in Portland Sunday night, she secured her first win in the Republican primary in D.C. with 63% of the vote compared with 33% for Trump. 

Polling places Haley far behind Trump in Maine’s presidential primary. Trump had the support of 77% of likely Republican voters, whereas Haley had 19%, according to a poll conducted last month by the University of New Hampshire

While the poll did not directly compare support for Trump and Biden, 75% of Mainers who planned to vote in the Democratic primary support Biden. Another poll out of Pan Atlantic Research in Portland released last week puts Trump ahead of Biden by a margin of 6 percentage points statewide if the presidential election were to occur today.

Immigration was the top issue Republican primary voters said determined their vote, though Trump supporters were more likely to include immigration among their top three issues compared with Haley supporters, who more frequently mentioned protecting democracy or the Constitution, foreign policy, winning the general election and education. 

That mirrored the issues Haley centered in her speech Sunday with the overarching call being a return to “normal.” 

“It’s not normal under Joe Biden to have these wars around the world,” Haley said. “It’s not normal for Donald Trump to go side with a dictator over our allies.” In summary, Haley explained, “we’ve got to get to where we’re at a place that we can get things done again.” 

That includes Congress, which she called out for failing to pass immigration reform or a budget on time. Calling for term limits and mental competency tests for anyone over the age of 75, Haley said, “Congress has become the most privileged nursing home in the country.”

She spoke favorably of one of Maine’s four congressional delegates, however, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who confirmed Friday that she voted for Haley over former President Donald Trump in Maine’s Republican presidential primary. After previously saying in January that she would not endorse either, Collins is now the third member of Congress to back Haley. 

Collins said in an emailed statement issued in response to a question from the Bangor Daily News that Haley “has the energy, intellect, and temperament that we need to lead our country in these very tumultuous times.” 

Democratic candidates have won Maine for the past eight presidential elections. George H.W. Bush was the last Republican candidate to win in 1988. 

However, in 2016 Trump won the 2nd Congressional District, which covers most of the state north of Augusta. This is because Maine is one of two states that splits its electoral votes. Maine allocates two to the state popular vote winner and one to the popular vote winner in each of its two congressional districts. 

With absentee voting underway in Maine, Trump remains on ballot pending high court ruling

As the wife of a currently deployed combat veteran, Haley said the president’s top priority should be avoiding war. She criticized both Biden and Trump’s foreign policy tactics, including how the Biden administration pulled out of Afghanistan and Trump’s recent statement that he would encourage Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade U.S. allies who haven’t met their defense spending obligations.   

“Do you want more of the same, or do you want to go in a new direction?” Haley asked. “More of the same as not just Joe Biden, more of the same is Donald Trump.”

A few Trump supporters made an appearance at the rally. Interrupting her speech, they yelled names such as “neocon” and “bird brain,” saying Maine is “Trump country.” 

“Don’t get upset at those fellas,” Haley said as they got escorted out, “because my husband and his military brothers and sisters sacrifice every day for their right to be able to do it.”

Ahead of her appearance in Maine on Sunday morning, Haley said she does not feel bound by the Republican National Committee’s pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee, suggesting she may not endorse Trump if he wins the nomination, which looks increasingly likely. 

When asked on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” whether she had taken the prospect of endorsing Mr. Trump “off the table,” Haley said she does not think about it. “If you talk about an endorsement, you’re talking about a loss,” Haley said. “I don’t think like that.”

Haley made clear Sunday that she is not stepping down, telling the crowd, “this is not for me running for vice president.”