Nikki Haley Vows to Fight On Against Trump After New Hampshire Loss

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Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, on Tuesday defied calls to drop out of the race for the Republican nomination, vowing to fight on after a second straight defeat at the hands of former President Donald J. Trump.

In rousing remarks, Ms. Haley painted a picture of a country and a world in disarray, casting herself as the choice for voters dissatisfied with both President Biden and Mr. Trump. She set up an epic showdown with Mr. Trump in South Carolina, where she is lagging far behind Mr. Trump in polls despite a home-state advantage.

“New Hampshire is first in the nation — it is not the last in the nation,” she said as a loud wave of cheers and applause broke out across the room. She added that the race was “far from over.”

She added, “We’re going home to South Carolina.”

Borrowing signature lines from her stump speeches, Ms. Haley, a United Nations ambassador under Mr. Trump, noted how far she had come since the race opened, when she was polling at just over 2 percent. She congratulated Mr. Trump on what she described as a well-earned victory and declared that politics was “not personal” to her, but she also called herself “a fighter.”

“And I’m scrappy — and now we’re the last ones standing next to Donald Trump,” she added. Painting herself as an outsider, despite her insider résumé, she pledged to take on Mr. Trump and the political class behind him. She also took shots at the media, who she said saw his glide to the nomination as a foregone conclusion.

With the new urgency she has been flashing on the trail in the past week, Ms. Haley turned up the heat on the former president, the dominant front-runner in the Republican race, who is fighting 91 felony charges. Another Trump presidency would be just as bad for the country as another four years of Mr. Biden, she said.

She also took another dig at Mr. Trump’s mental fitness and his 77 years of age, reminding voters how he had confused her for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and accused her of not providing security at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Someone in her rambunctious audience, which occasionally shouted encouraging interruptions, yelled, “Geriatric!”

“With Donald Trump, you have one bout of chaos after another,” she said. “This court case, that controversy, this tweet, that senior moment. You can’t fix Joe Biden’s chaos with Republican chaos.”

In her final Granite State appearances before polls closed, Ms. Haley had rejected the suggestion that Republican voters had already solidly united behind the former president, and pledged not to end her bid no matter the result.

“I didn’t get here because of luck,” she said at a polling site in Hampton, N.H., while flanked by supporters, including Gov. Chris Sununu, her top surrogate in the state. “I got here because I outworked and outsmarted all the rest of those fellas. So I’m running against Donald Trump, and I’m not going to talk about an obituary.”

Mr. Trump, speaking to supporters at his victory party, mocked Ms. Haley for speaking “like she won.” But “she didn’t win — she lost,” he added.

On Wednesday morning, Ms. Haley is expected to speak during a Republican State Committee meeting in the Virgin Islands, which holds its contest on Feb. 8. She is then anticipated at a homecoming rally in Charleston, S.C., where her campaign has its headquarters.

A number of people close to Ms. Haley are encouraging her to keep going, many of whom are deeply opposed to Mr. Trump’s becoming the nominee again.

Betsy Ankney, her campaign manager, released a memo early Tuesday morning shooting down suggestions that Mr. Trump’s path to the nomination was inevitable. She pointed to the 11 of the 16 states that vote on Super Tuesday that have “open or semi-open primaries” that can include independent voters and are “fertile ground for Nikki.” Rushing through the departing crowds on Tuesday, Ms. Ankney said the campaign had also already assembled more staff members in place, though she declined to discuss further details.

Nevada will host a Republican caucus on Feb. 8, but Ms. Haley is not competing in that contest, instead participating in a Republican primary in the state two days earlier that awards no delegates.

Her campaign has bought over $1 million in television advertising from Tuesday through Feb. 6 in South Carolina, according to AdImpact, a media-tracking firm. It is part of what the campaign has announced will be a $4 million ad buy in the state.

And officials at her allied super PAC, Stand for America, said they, too, planned to forge ahead.

Mark Harris, the lead strategist for the PAC, said it was prepping television, mail and digital advertising in a get-out-the-vote effort that would look similar to the programs it had taken on in Iowa and New Hampshire, though as of Tuesday it had not yet made those investments.

“We’re running the outsider candidacy, so this was never going to happen all magically in one day, and so we’re going to keep pushing ahead,” Mr. Harris said.

Since the summer, Ms. Haley has predicted that the Republican nominating contest would result in a showdown between her and Mr. Trump in her home state. Her outward confidence in that scenario has not faltered — not after she failed to place second in Iowa, not after her top rival for No. 2, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, dropped out and endorsed Mr. Trump, not after a slate of South Carolina legislators this week joined Mr. Trump on the stump in the final days of the New Hampshire race.

Her message to his allies and the news media: She has been here before.

“I won South Carolina twice as governor,” she told reporters Friday at a retro diner in Amherst. “I think I know what favorable territory is in South Carolina.”

But it has been 10 years since she was last on the ballot, and her state and her party have changed. Mr. Trump has solidified a loyal base there since he won South Carolina in the 2016 Republican primary over Ms. Haley’s endorsement of his opponent, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Although Ms. Haley’s affluent — and more moderate — Republican base along the coast and in Charleston remains intact, her grip on the Midlands has loosened. In the more conservative Upstate around Greenville, she is likely to have an even steeper uphill climb.

The daunting path ahead did not damp the enthusiasm among her supporters who gathered at her election watch party Tuesday at a hotel in Concord. Many were not from New Hampshire. Almost 100 students hailed from New York.

Despite the results, many described feeling exhilarated, optimistic and hopeful, believing that as the last Trump challenger standing in the Republican race, she would now have a greater chance to spread her message.

When the election results flashed on the television screens scattered throughout the room, few had been paying attention.

“I’m happy to hear that she is still going,” said Allie Cable, 26, a department supervisor in the health care industry in Concord. “Anything could happen.”

Richard and Wendy Clymer, a Republican couple also from Concord, had missed the moment entirely. They had rushed into the event late after spending the day rallying support for Ms. Haley and encouraging voters to get to the polls. He saw the result as encouraging, even though the state went to Mr. Trump’s column.

Mr. Clymer, 63, an engineer who had held a Haley sign outside a polling place for seven hours, recalled the moment when the results of his polling location were read aloud: Trump 467, Haley 739.

“There was an audible gasp in the gymnasium like, ‘Wow,’ this guy can be beaten,” Mr. Clymer said.

Maggie Haberman and Kellen Browning contributed reporting.

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