Haley said Trump will ‘drag the entire Republican ticket down.’ Now she’ll vote for him

Eleven weeks after halting her presidential campaign, Nikki Haley on Wednesday ended billowing speculation about her 2024 intentions by announcing her support for Donald Trump in the general election.

Speaking at Washington’s Hudson Institute, where she’s assumed the position of Walter P. Stern chair, the former United Nations ambassador listed the need to have a president who defends U.S. allies, supports capitalism and freedom and commits to securing the southern border as the reasons undergirding her decision.

“Trump has not been perfect on these policies, but Biden has been a catastrophe, so I will be voting for Trump,” Haley told Peter Rough, a senior fellow at Hudson during a question and answer session.

Still, Haley notably did not instruct her legion of supporters to follow her lead and instead suggested that Trump still needed to earn their support.

“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 said to applause.

Trump hasn’t made any efforts at outreach thus far and the Biden campaign believes that a measurable number of Haley voters can be lured into their column by the fall.

A recent Blueprint/YouGov national survey of registered voters found that roughly 4 in 10 Haley voters (38%) would back Trump in a two-way race, whereas one-fifth would go with Biden (19%). A quarter (24%) said they’re unsure. When independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is factored into the race, the political dynastic draws 24% of Haley’s voters.

Haley’s reticent backing of the former president who elevated her to a role on the world stage during his administration overshadowed the substance of her inaugural Hudson address, which critiqued “a dangerous worldview” of withdrawal infecting the foreign policy of both major parties.

She branded Biden as earning a legacy of “the commander-in-chief who refused to stop our enemies” and she chastised a faction of Republicans for trying “to push Ukraine off of a cliff.”

But her statement will attempt to quell some of the ire among Trump supporters and right-wing media personalities who have increasingly mused about a sinister plot by Haley to wrest the GOP nomination from Trump at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee this summer.

When Haley’s brother posted on social media this weekend, “Milwaukee here we come!,” the insinuation rippled through a stable of Trump loyalists who howled that Haley might stage a coup by wrangling support from delegates in the event that Trump is convicted of a felony in the Manhattan hush money trial.

Haley’s signal that she’ll cast a ballot for her formal rival should quash such rumors, even as her choice disheartens many of her supporters.

Kyle Sweetser, a centrist Republican from Mobile, Alabama, who voted for Trump in 2020, said while he was disappointed with her decision, it won’t tarnish his support for her.

“I’m still never Trump and I’ll be voting for Biden,” he told The State.

Despite suspending her candidacy on March 6, Haley has continued to earn hundreds of thousands of votes in primary match-ups she hasn’t competed in.

In last week’s Maryland primary she netted 22%; in the Pennsylvania GOP primary last month she earned 17% of the vote against Trump; in Arizona she won 18% and in Washington state she took 19%.

Prior to Wednesday, Haley was one of highest profile Republicans withholding her endorsement from Trump.

During her campaign she called Trump unfit to be president and lambasted his comments encouraging Russia to invade NATO countries. She said his mocking of combat veterans — including her husband — was disqualifying and “a pattern of chaos [and] … irresponsibility.”

In her home state of South Carolina she flatly declared that Trump would lose to Biden in November and “will drag the entire Republican ticket down with him.”

But after time away from the grind of the campaign, many long runs and sleeping 10 to 12 hours a night, Haley came around and did what most politicians do: Fall in line with their party in order to preserve themselves for a political future.

“You fight like hell. When the game’s over, you’re red or you’re blue,” said David Urban, a Republican lobbyist and consultant who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Urban called the perception among online liberals and cable TV-ready never-Trump Republicans that Haley could possibly support Biden “delusional.”

“She’s a young person. She’s got a lot of political road ahead of her,” he said. “At the end of the day, never say never, maybe she’s vice president ... or secretary of state. Not a bad gig.”

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