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Nikki Haley says she and Trump will run a 2-way race after Iowa caucuses

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Nikki Haley says she and Trump will run a 2-way race after Iowa caucuses

Dec 09, 2023 | 6:56 am ET
By Robin Opsahl
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Nikki Haley says she and Trump will run a 2-way race after Iowa caucuses
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Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley asked Iowans for their support in the 2024 GOP presidential caucuses during an event at the Sioux City Convention Center Dec. 8, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

SIOUX CITY — Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday she does not believe that winning in Iowa is necessary for her to win the GOP presidential nomination – but the caucuses could be the end for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign.

Haley spoke to a crowd of more than 80 at the Sioux City Convention Center, her first stop on a weekend swing through Iowa. When an attendee asked her what percentage she needed in the Iowa caucus in order to see a path forward to the nomination, Haley said a “good showing” in Iowa was more important than winning first place.

Going into Iowa, she said, there will be three major candidates, referring to herself, DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner.

“I think you’ve got three major people that are going to go into Iowa, and I think after Iowa, one is going to drop,” Haley said, referring to DeSantis. “And then I think you’re going to have a play with me and Trump in New Hampshire, and then we’re going to go to my home state of South Carolina, and we’re going to take it.”

Haley, Trump’s first United Nations ambassador, was tied with DeSantis at 16% in the October Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll but has pushed ahead of DeSantis in some New Hampshire and South Carolina polls.

Though Haley is gaining momentum nationally, DeSantis’ campaign has won significant endorsements in Iowa. The Florida governor has the support of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Family Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats — two important conservative leaders in the state who are appearing with him on the campaign trail.

At the Friday event, state Rep. Jacob Bossman, R-Sioux City, endorsed Haley, saying he was happy to support “somebody my daughters can be proud of.”

“I think we need a leader who has accomplished things, but also has valuable experience – foreign policy, especially in the U.N. — is really vital to a lot of the challenges facing our world right now,” Bossman said.

Haley’s Iowa trip follows her appearance Wednesday at the fourth GOP presidential debate. She was the target of attacks from DeSantis as well as entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy on issues including war aid to Israel and Ukraine, her campaign’s support from the Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity and Wall Street figures like the CEO of BlackRock and co-founder of LinkedIn.

On the debate stage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Haley brushed off these comments. When accused of changing her positions to meet the wants of her corporate supporters, she said DeSantis and Ramaswamy were “just jealous.”

Adrienne Dunn of Sioux City said she believed Haley handled the scrutiny at the debate well – “nobody shook her,” she said. Dunn said she was happy to hear Haley present solutions on issues from health care reform to veterans’ services. She plans to caucus for Haley in January.

“Instead of trying to say what people want her to say, she just cuts through to the facts … and says what needs to be done,” Dunn said.

But even in places where Haley has edged ahead of the Florida governor in polls, Haley is still in second place. Trump leads by double digits in early state and national polls.

Haley said she had a “hard truth” for Iowans – that Trump was the right person for 2016 but is no longer the best presidential candidate for Republicans in 2024.

“Chaos follows him,” Haley said. “You know I’m right. Chaos follows him. And we can’t have our country in disarray and a world on fire and be dealing with four years of chaos. We won’t survive it.”

When asked if she was running to become Trump’s vice president if he wins the 2024 presidential nomination, Haley said she doesn’t “play for second.”

“I’ve never played for second my entire life,” she said, with attendees cheering.

Like SC Daily Gazette, Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: [email protected]. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.