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Nikki Haley: Donald Trump is sinking the Republican Party and won't win the general

WASHINGTON — Nikki Haley warned Republicans on Tuesday, as Michigan voters went to the polls, that Donald Trump is sinking the party, and time is running out for the GOP to save itself.

She said on CNN that it should be concerning to GOP voters that she's capturing roughly 40% of the vote in competitions with the former president.

"That's making a point, that look, we are telling you, for all the Republican Party — we are in a ship with a hole in it. You can either ignore a hole, and go down with the ship, or you can acknowledge that we've got to look for a life raft," Haley said.

US Republican Presidential hopeful and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign rally in Troy, Michigan, on February 25, 2024. The Michigan Republican primary is scheduled for February 27, 2024. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)
US Republican Presidential hopeful and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign rally in Troy, Michigan, on February 25, 2024. The Michigan Republican primary is scheduled for February 27, 2024. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)

If Trump is the nominee, she said, Democrats will prevail in November. Haley said that ultimately means Vice President Kamala Harris will become president — an allusion to President Joe Biden's age. He is the oldest sitting president the U.S. has ever had. Trump is 77, while Biden is 81.

"There's a reason that Democrats are salivating at the thought of Donald Trump," Haley continued. "Because they look at it, and they know anybody can beat Donald Trump."

In a radio interview later in the day, Haley, 52, went further. She predicted that Democrats would replace the incumbent president with Harris, 59, in the general election candidate.

"I'm telling you, the party that gets rid of their 80-year-old candidate is going to be the party that wins. Joe Biden is not going to be the candidate," she said on "Drivetime with DeRusha" on News Talk 830 WCCO. "You're going to find the Democrats go put someone younger in, and we're going to be stuck with another loss and a President Kamala Harris. That is what will happen if Donald Trump is the nominee."

Haley did not offer any evidence to back up the assertion.

She dismissed speculation that she has her sights set on the vice presidency, an independent campaign or a future presidential run, saying, "If it was about 2028, I would have been out a long time ago."

Haley said her candidacy is about "putting the red flag up" for the Republican Party and the country. "You have a candidate, that if I get out, is going to be a candidate that cannot win a general election," she said on the Minneapolis-based radio program.

Trump has a slight edge over Biden in recent general election polling, but the RealClearPolitics average puts the prospective matchup within the margin of error. Haley is beating Biden by nearly 5 percentage points in the same polling average.

And while Haley lost the South Carolina primary to Trump by 20 points on Saturday, Democrats and some Republicans are pointing to her vote total there to make the case that Trump would be a weak general election candidate.

Haley won roughly 40% of primary voters in South Carolina, which allows residents of any political preference to vote in its party primaries. An exit poll conducted by CBS News showed that only 5% of the voters who cast ballots in the Republican contest identified as Democrats, however. More than a quarter were independents.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nikki Haley warns Donald Trump is sinking the Republican Party