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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Chris Stein in Washington, Joanna Walters in New York and agency

‘I refuse to quit’: Nikki Haley declares no fear of retribution from Trump

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley
Republican presidential candidate, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, speaks at a campaign event at Clemson University at Greenville on Tuesday, in Greenville, South Carolina. Photograph: Allison Joyce/Getty Images

A defiant Nikki Haley on Tuesday declared no fear of retribution from Donald Trump as she persists in her efforts to compete against the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, saying: “I feel no need to kiss the ring.”

Haley approaches the South Carolina primary on Saturday, her home state where she was previously governor, a long way behind Trump but turning up the rhetorical heat.

“We’ve all heard the calls for me to drop out,” she said in a speech in Greenville, South Carolina, on Tuesday. But she also said: “I refuse to quit.”

And in an interview with the Associated Press, she vowed to stay in the fight at least until after Super Tuesday’s slate of more than a dozen contests on 5 March.

“Ten days after South Carolina, another 20 states vote. I mean, this isn’t Russia. We don’t want someone to go in and just get 99% of the vote,” Haley said, adding: “What is the rush? Why is everybody so panicked about me having to get out of this race?”

In a cutting remark on X, formerly Twitter, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung posted in a riposte to Haley’s kissing the ring statement: “She’s going to drop down to kiss ass when she quits, like she always does.”

Betsy Ankney, Haley’s campaign manager, responded with sarcastic humor on the same platform.

“What a move. @TheStevenCheung is the key to winning back suburban women!” she posted.

In Greenville, Haley taunted that maybe some people, especially reporters, turned out to hear if she was going to drop out of the race after Trump won the first three contests of the primary race, in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

“Well, I’m not. Far from it, and I’m here to tell you why,” she said. “I’m running for president because we have a country to save,” she said, listing domestic issues such as crime, gun violence, illegal drugs, children struggling with their studies, migration at the US-Mexico border and the high cost of many things from groceries to buying a house.

And on foreign policy, she said: “I’m talking about the American weakness that led to wars in Europe, and the Middle East, and the urgent need to restore strength before war spreads and draws America further in. These are the challenges I’m here to tackle.”

Trump has been scathing about Haley’s performance and has been leading pressure from several directions for her to drop out, after she became the last opponent left standing following the end of the campaign trail for rivals including the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Haley said on Tuesday: “Many of the same politicians who now publicly embrace Trump, privately dread him. They know what a disaster he’s been and will continue to be for our party. They’re just too afraid to say it out loud. Well, I’m not afraid … I feel no need to kiss the ring. I have no fear of Trump’s retribution. I’m not looking for anything from him.”

Some Republicans are encouraging Haley to stay in the campaign even if she continues to lose – potentially all the way to the Republican national convention in July, as Trump faces numerous court cases.

Haley said: “He’s going to be in a courtroom all of March, April, May and June. How in the world do you win a general election when these cases keep going and the judgments keep coming?”

Meanwhile, Joe Biden was asked whether he preferred to compete against Haley or Trump this fall.

“Oh, I don’t care,” the US president said.

The Associated Press contributed reporting

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