Haley eyes Super Tuesday and long odds after embarrassing Nevada result

LOS ANGELES — Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley sought Wednesday to move past a humiliating setback in Nevada, where she was roundly rejected in an unusual primary that highlighted her stiff challenges to Donald Trump and revived questions about its long-term prospects in the country. race.

The former U.N. ambassador focused on the Super Tuesday contests in early March and hopes they will help turn around her flagging candidacy, particularly in California, where she planned to hold a rally Wednesday evening. The event came a day after Republican primary voters in Nevada were poised to choose the “none of the above” voting option against Haley — the only major candidate — by a margin of more than 2-1 , with the help of Trump. organized army of partisans.

The Nevada contest had no nominating convention delegates at stake, and the “none” option served as a placeholder of sorts for the former president, who ignored it in favor of Thursday's caucuses . But it was a scathing rebuke to her latest Republican rival that underscored her extremely narrow path to the Republican nomination.

“I don’t think there’s a solution unless something materially changes in the electorate, which would require something to change with Trump — and that’s not a strategy,” the strategist said Wednesday Republican Rob Stutzman. “If that’s the case, we’ve been waiting for this to work for eight years.”

Stutzman said it would take “an extraordinary result in South Carolina,” Haley's home state, for Haley to stay in the race until Super Tuesday. Polls show Haley trailing Trump well ahead of the Palmetto State's Feb. 24 primary.

Although she has pledged to continue her campaign, the Nevada results have reignited the question of whether there is a long-term path for Haley's campaign. After South Carolina, they turn their attention to Michigan later this month and the 15 states and one U.S. territory that will vote on Super Tuesday on March 5, which includes the expensive advertising land and multitude of delegates in large states like Texas and California.

Not only do polls in many of these contests show Trump as the overwhelming favorite, but leaders of Republican parties allied with Trump have long shaped the rules of many of them to benefit the former president as he and Haley is vying for the 1,215 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Trump is expected to sweep delegates in the Nevada caucuses on Thursday and, unlike Haley, who bypassed him, he recently held an event in the state. Her advisers are portraying Haley's efforts as a “wacky tour” and say she would have to reshape the Republican electorate in historic ways in the next few states to win — largely by attracting independents or other voters who participate rarely in primaries. Trump advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy, said that even when the campaign models potential delegate counts for Trump and Haley in upcoming contests using what they consider The best-case scenario for Haley – replicating her strong performance in New Hampshire – Trump is still expected to clinch the nomination by March 19.

“She has no path to the nomination, no matter how many Democrats she tries to convince,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said of Haley.

Haley's allies on Wednesday sought to overtake Nevada as an outlier state where the party had engineered the process to benefit Trump – echoing Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney's assertion that the campaign had not spent “a cent” or “an ounce of energy” in this area. State. One of Haley's early and most influential backers, Fred Zeidman, said the Silver State result should have surprised no one because Trump supporters are determined to ensure he becomes the nominee and Haley is the only remaining opponent.

“That’s the person they need to tarnish.” They must be trying to force her out of the campaign or portray her in as bad a light as possible,” he said, adding: “You still see a lot of money coming into Nikki’s coffers. »

Despite deep doubts within her own party about whether she has a path to the nomination and calls from congressional and party leaders for her to drop out, Haley and her allies have indicated she has the intends to stay in the race at least until the Super Tuesday contests. . The former South Carolina governor planned to rally voters Wednesday night in Los Angeles, amid a fundraising campaign in California.

The Haley campaign said it raised $1.7 million this week in California, and its aides said Haley had its best fundraising month to date in January, with Ankney arguing that was due in party to small donors excited by polls showing Haley as a stronger competitor than Trump in a head-to-head matchup with President Biden.

Although the campaign has yet to make an ad buy in Super Tuesday states, Ankney argued that Haley is “the last one standing between the American people and the rematch that no one wants between Trump and Biden » and that the campaign would have the necessary resources. to “go the distance”.

Haley's supporters say her path to Super Tuesday hinges on an outperformance in South Carolina and Michigan.

“These games are ultimately largely dynamic games. And if Nikki proves she'll have the momentum, a rising tide will lift boats, sort of in every state,” said Mark Harris, chief strategist at pro-Haley firm SFA Inc.

He added that the states that have “the lowest hanging fruit” are primaries that are either open or semi-open – allowing for the participation of independents and other voters – and those that “will be more suburban than rural. .”

But Trump led Haley 58 percent to 32 percent in a recent Washington Post-Monmouth poll of likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina, where Haley was governor. Many of the state's top elected officials have lined up to support Trump, even those who owe much of their political success to Haley — including Sen. Tim Scott, whom she appointed to the Senate, and Rep. Nancy Mace , which Haley disagreed with and helped save from a Trump-backed challenger.

Her allies in the state have pointed to Haley's popularity as governor and her come-from-behind victory in her first gubernatorial campaign as proof she can narrow her margins against Trump.

“No one thought she could win. Everyone said she was stupid for staying there. Everyone was saying to stand down. What does that look like – right now, right? said South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis, a Haley supporter.

Asked if she would continue her campaign if she placed second in South Carolina, Haley told reporters last Thursday, “We're not going anywhere.” It's just about bridging that gap. I'm not going anywhere. We have a country to save and I am determined to continue until the end. As long as we can continue to close this gap.

Michigan perhaps presents an even bigger challenge for Haley. Jason Roe, a Michigan-based Republican strategist and former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, predicted that Haley's run in Michigan would be similar to what he called her “almost gratuitous” loss in Nevada. State delegates will be awarded in a split process, similar to Nevada's split of the primaries and caucus, with 16 of the 55 delegates awarded based on primary results and the remaining 39 awarded based on one vote at the convention.

“In a convention-type dynamic, Donald Trump is only 20 steps ahead of everyone else in the industry,” Roe said. “I think Michigan is as irrelevant as Nevada. I mean, there's more potential for embarrassment than momentum.

Haley's advisers frequently noted that 11 of the 16 Super Tuesday elections featured open or semi-open primaries in which the former South Carolina governor could expand the universe of voters beyond the Republican base, including key targets like Virginia, Texas, Maine and Massachusetts. , North Carolina and Vermont.

They note that she has consistently performed well among college-educated and suburban voters whom Republicans have struggled to attract over the past two cycles. That could create opportunities for Haley to win delegates in dense suburban areas of North Carolina and Texas. The Lone Star State awards both at-large delegates and delegates by congressional district.

Yet competing in such a wide range of states on Super Tuesday – some with very expensive media markets and complex rules for attracting delegates – will be expensive, especially as Haley faces a barrage of attacks from part of Trump's well-funded efforts. In California, for example, Trump has consistently polled above 50 percent.

Under new rules adopted last year, the former president could win all of the state's 169 delegates — more than any other state — if he gets more than 50 percent of the statewide vote. Status March 5.

Wells reported from Washington.

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