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Trump vs. Haley battle enters nastier phase

The race between former President Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is getting even worse, even though the odds seem overwhelmingly in Trump’s favor.

President Trump recently targeted Haley’s husband, Michael Haley, with comments that appeared to be intended to hint at the couple’s marriage.

“What happened to her husband? What happened to her husband? Where is he? He’s gone!” President Trump said at a rally over the weekend.

In fact, Michael Haley has been deployed to Africa with the South Carolina National Guard since June.

Nikki Haley rightly hit back at Trump, accusing him of disrespecting veterans and neglecting military service.

Haley appeared on Fox News and slammed Trump for the “disgusting” attack, saying it amounted to “making a mockery of all veterans.”

President Trump was infamously excused from military service during the Vietnam War due to bone spurs. “The closest thing to harming him was a golf ball hitting a golf cart,” Haley said.

The attack is notable because it occurred just before the South Carolina primary, scheduled for February 24th. Haley’s campaign has effectively become a do-or-die moment in her home state, although the candidate has officially said she has won, but the race is open until at least Super Tuesday, March 5.

Veterans hold important positions in South Carolina’s Republican constituency, but so far they haven’t brought any noticeable electoral benefits to Haley. Trump has a lead of more than 30 points in the state, according to polling averages maintained by The Hill and Decision Desk. His support is more than double Haley’s.

Trump also defeated then-Sen. Trump in the 2016 Republican South Carolina primary, at a time when some Beltway experts thought it was unlikely he would reach the White House. It is also noteworthy that he won by a narrow margin after scorning and causing deep controversy. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Mr. McCain passed away in 2018.

The ferocity of the attacks between Mr. Trump and Ms. Haley is remarkable, in part because Ms. Haley served in the previous presidential administration. In the early stages of the primary campaign, voters were wary of focusing all their attention on him for fear of alienating his supporters. The only candidate to strongly attack Trump, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), failed to improve at all in the polls and withdrew from the race just before the Iowa caucuses.

But now Haley has nothing to lose and no other serious rivals to consider.

“This is what happens when it’s a one-on-one race, right?” said Republican strategist Kevin Madden. “In a race, you are no longer interrupted by multiple targets and each can look at each other and see the whites of their eyes.”

A front-runner as strong as Trump would normally ignore a rival like Haley whose chances are shrinking. Mr. Trump has so far won the two major elections in Iowa and New Hampshire by large margins, and the large difference in approval ratings in South Carolina is evidence of this.

Still, Trump is not a candidate to let convention get in the way of his desire to decide who wins or loses.

“At this point in the campaign, Donald Trump is on cruise control to become a candidate, and Nikki Haley is actually running a ‘statement candidacy’ on her issues.” said Ryan Williams, who was a Republican strategist when he was a Republican candidate in 2016 and is now a Republican strategist. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

“Under normal circumstances you would ignore the ankle biters, but Donald Trump is not your average front-runner. He attacks everything in sight and is more energetic than anyone else.” I’m going to follow her.”

But even as the campaign enters a new and difficult phase, Trump’s status as the overwhelming favorite for president is having a measurable impact.

That’s been most evident on Capitol Hill, where, despite the painstaking work Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) did to get the proposal together in the first place, his disapproval recently led to border security. led to the collapse of a putative agreement on

Senate passage of a $95 billion bill to fund Ukraine’s war against Russia and provide $14 billion in military aid to Israel is in serious jeopardy in the House, where Republicans are reluctant to confront Trump. ing. The former president was particularly skeptical about continuing aid to Ukraine at the current pace.

Meanwhile, Trump is also tightening his grip on the party apparatus. On Monday, he endorsed Michael Whatley, whom he calls “my friend,” to be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and endorsed his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, as co-chairman.

Trump also wants Chris Lacivita, one of the most central figures in his re-election campaign, to be the RNC’s new chief operating officer.

This suggestion gave Haley new inspiration. “This country doesn’t have a king,” the former U.N. ambassador said in a Fox News interview Tuesday.

“This is indicative of what’s going on, not just with the RNC, but with political parties across the country,” said Dan Jeudy, a Republican strategist who is skeptical of Trump. “It’s always the president taking over the RNC, but Trump Republicans are taking over state parties more than I’ve ever seen.”

Trump is not officially the presumptive Republican nominee. Such status is formally achieved only when a candidate receives enough delegates to secure the nomination at a party convention.

But in reality, Trump’s grip on the party is tightening day by day.

Haley aggressively attacks him, although it seems highly unlikely that it will loosen up any time soon.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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