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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
David Smith in Washington

Nikki Haley says she will vote for Donald Trump in 2024 election

Nikki Haley speaks at the Hudson Institute in Washington, on 22 May 2024.
Nikki Haley speaks at the Hudson Institute in Washington on Wednesday. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Nikki Haley, who emerged as Donald Trump’s most enduring rival and trenchant critic during the Republican primary elections, has said she intends to vote for the former US president in November.

Haley was speaking at the Hudson Institute thinktank in Washington on Wednesday, her first public appearance since dropping out of the race in March. She was asked whether Joe Biden or Trump would do a better job on national security issues.

The former ambassador to the UN and South Carolina governor ran through a list of priorities when choosing a president, ranging from the need to back allies and hold enemies to account, to supporting capitalism and freedom while reducing the national debt.

“Trump has not been perfect on these policies,” Haley said. “I have made that clear many, many times. But Biden has been a catastrophe. So I will be voting for Trump.”

The 52-year-old added by way of caveat: “Having said that, I stand by what I said in my suspension speech. Trump would be smart to reach out to the millions of people who voted for me and continue to support me and not assume that they’re just going to be with him. And I genuinely hope he does that.”

Haley joins the US Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, the former attorney general William Barr and Chris Sununu, the New Hampshire governor, in the ranks of one-time Trump foes who will nevertheless support him as the party nominee.

During a bruising primary campaign, she said Trump had “lost any sort of political viability”, showed “moral weakness” and is “thin-skinned and easily distracted”. She argued that America needs to move on from his “chaos”. Trump fired back and recently dismissed reports that he might consider Haley as his running mate.

Haley’s U-turn provoked a swift backlash. Sarah Longwell, a political strategist and publisher of the conservative Bulwark website, tweeted: “So when Nikki Haley said, ‘It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him.’ She really meant, he can treat me and my voters like garbage and I’ll still fall in line and support him.”

Joe Walsh, an ex-Republican congressman, added: “This isn’t complicated: Nikki Haley believes Trump is unfit. And she believes he should never be back in the White House. But if she said that publicly, her career as a Republican would be over. So, as expected, she decided to not be truthful. To keep her career as a Republican.”

Although she dropped out of the primaries in early March, Haley has continued to draw up to 20% in the contests, a clear warning sign for Trump’s campaign. The former president has dismissed the idea of trying to appeal to Haley’s voters, where Biden said in Atlanta this weekend: “Let me say, there’s always going to be a place for Haley voters in my campaign.”

Trump has also been endorsed by former Republican primary opponents including Doug Burgum, the North Dakota governor, Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur, and the South Carolina senator Tim Scott.

Earlier in the event at the Hudson Institute, attended by several foreign ambassadors, Haley was fiercely critical of far right Republicans who favour “America first” isolationism, though she did not mention Trump by name. She praised the House speaker Mike Johnson for pushing aid for Israel and Ukraine through Congress.

“A growing number of Democrats and Republicans have forgotten what makes America safe,” she said. “A loud part of each party wants us to abandon our allies, appease our enemies and focus only on the problems we have at home.

“They believe if we leave the world alone, the world will leave us alone. They even say ignoring global chaos will somehow make our country more secure. It will not. This worldview has already put America in great danger and the threat is mounting by the day.”

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