Nikki Haley to drop out of presidential race – but won’t endorse Trump

After Donald Trump scores string of primary victories on Super Tuesday, Nikki Haley set to end her presidential bid.

By The Associated Press

Nikki Haley will suspend her presidential campaign Wednesday after being soundly defeated across the country on Super Tuesday, according to people familiar with her decision, leaving Donald Trump as the last remaining major candidate for the 2024 Republican nomination.

Three people with direct knowledge who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly confirmed Haley’s decision ahead of an announcement by her scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Haley is not planning to endorse Trump in her announcement, according to the people with knowledge of her plans. Instead, she is expected to encourage him to earn the support of the coalition of moderate Republicans and independent voters who supported her.

Haley, a former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador, was Trump’s first significant rival when she jumped into the race in February 2023. She spent the final phase of her campaign aggressively warning the GOP against embracing Trump, whom she argued was too consumed by chaos and personal grievance to defeat President Joe Biden in the general election.

Her departure clears Trump to focus solely on his likely rematch in November with Biden. The former president is on track to reach the necessary 1,215 delegates to clinch the Republican nomination later this month.

Trump on Tuesday night declared that the GOP was united behind him, but in a statement shortly afterward, Haley spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said, “Unity is not achieved by simply claiming, ‘We’re united.’”

“Today, in state after state, there remains a large block of Republican primary voters who are expressing deep concerns about Donald Trump,” Perez-Cubas said. “That is not the unity our party needs for success. Addressing those voters’ concerns will make the Republican Party and America better.”

Haley leaves the 2024 presidential contest having made history as the first woman to win a Republican primary. She beat Trump in the District of Columbia on Sunday and Vermont on Tuesday.

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She had insisted she would stay in the race through Super Tuesday and crossed the country campaigning in states holding Republican contests. Ultimately, she was unable to knock Trump off his glide path to a third straight nomination.

Haley’s allies note that she exceeded most of the political world’s expectations by making it as far as she did.

She had initially ruled out running against Trump in 2024. But she changed her mind and ended up launching her bid three months after he did, citing among other things the country’s economic troubles and the need for “generational change.” Haley, 52, later called for competency tests for politicians over the age of 75 — a knock on both Trump, who is 77, and President Joe Biden, who is 81.

Her candidacy was slow to attract donors and support, but she ultimately outlasted all of her other GOP rivals, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott, her fellow South Carolinian whom she appointed to the Senate in 2012. And the money flowed in until the very end. Her campaign said it raised more than $12 million in February alone.

She gained popularity with many Republican donors, independent voters and the so-called “Never Trump” crowd, even though she criticized the criminal cases against him as politically motivated and pledged that, if president, she would pardon him if he were convicted in federal court.

As the field consolidated, she and DeSantis battled it out through the early-voting states for a distant second to Trump. The two went after each other in debates, ads and interviews, often more directly than they went after Trump.

The campaign’s focus on foreign policy following Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel in October tilted the campaign into Haley’s wheelhouse, giving her an opportunity to showcase her experience from the U.N., tying the war to her conservative domestic priorities and arguing that both Israel and the U.S. could be made vulnerable by what she called “distractions.”

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Haley was slow to criticize her former boss directly.

As she campaigned across early states, Haley often complimented some of Trump’s foreign policy achievements but gradually inserted more critiques into her campaign speeches.

She argued Trump’s hyperfocus on trade with China led him to ignore security threats posed by a major U.S. rival. She warned that weak support for Ukraine would “only encourage” China to invade Taiwan, a viewpoint shared by several of her GOP rivals, even as many Republican voters questioned whether the U.S. should send aid to Ukraine.

In November, Haley — an accountant who had consistently touted her lean campaign — won the backing of the political arm of the powerful Koch network. AFP Action blasted early-state voters with mailers and door-knockers, committing its nationwide coalition of activists and virtually unlimited funds to helping Haley defeat Trump.

With Trump refusing to participate in primary debates, Haley went head-to-head with DeSantis in a single debate, displaying a combative style that seemed to sit poorly with even those committed to support her in the Iowa caucuses. She would finish third.

Haley’s name emerged as a possible running mate for Trump, with the former president reportedly asking allies what they thought of adding her to his possible ticket. As Haley appeared to gain ground, some of Trump’s backers worked to tamp down the notion.

While Haley initially notably declined to rule out the possibility, she said while campaigning in New Hampshire in January that serving as “anybody’s vice president” is “off the table.”

After DeSantis exited the campaign following Trump’s record-setting win in the Iowa caucuses, Haley hoped that New Hampshire voters would feel so strongly about keeping the former president away from the White House that they would turn out to support her in large numbers.

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“America does not do coronations,” Haley said at a VFW hall in Franklin on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. “Let’s show all of the media class and the political class that we’ve got a different plan in mind, and let’s show the country what we can do.”

But she would lose New Hampshire and then refused to participate in Nevada’s caucuses, arguing the state’s rules strongly favored Trump. She instead ran in the state’s primary, which didn’t count for any delegates for the nomination. She still finished a distant second to “ none of these candidates,” an option Nevada offers to voters dissatisfied with their choices and used by many Trump supporters to oppose her.

She had long vowed to win South Carolina but backed off of that pledge as the primary drew nearer. She crisscrossed the state that twice elected her governor on a bus tour, holding smaller events than Trump’s less frequent rallies and suggesting she was better equipped to beat Biden than him.

She lost South Carolina by 20 points and Michigan three days later by 40. The Koch brothers’ AFP Action announced after her South Carolina loss that it would stop organizing for her.

But by staying in the campaign, Haley drew enough support from suburbanites and college-educated voters to highlight Trump’s apparent weaknesses with those groups.

Haley has made clear she doesn’t want to serve as Trump’s vice president or run on a third-party ticket arranged by the group No Labels. She leaves the race with an elevated national profile that could help her in a future presidential run.

In recent days, she backed off a pledge to endorse the eventual Republican nominee that was required of anyone participating in party debates.

“I think I’ll make what decision I want to make,” she told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”