Nikki Haley says she will vote for Donald Trump

Nikki Haley’s voters may not be voting for Donald Trump just yet, but the former candidate herself says she’s ready to pull the lever.

The former South Carolina governor, who ran for president earlier this year before bowing out after Super Tuesday, told the DC-based conservative Hudson Institute think tank on Wednesday that she would vote for Trump in November.

"I will be voting for Trump," said Haley during a question-and-answer session following her remarks.

“Having said that, I stand by what I said in my suspension speech,” she said. “Trump would be smart to reach out to the millions of people who voted for me."

In the same remarks, she referred to the incumbent president, Joe Biden, as a “catastrophe”. During her prepared speech, she raked him across the coals for his criticism of Israel’s tactics in the war against Hamas in Gaza, where the US president has said that Israeli forces have carried out “indiscriminate” bombing campaigns in some instances.

Haley then went on to question why Russia should think the US would remain committed to backing Ukraine if it would not remain a reliable ally of Israel for more than “a few months”. She neglected to mention the obvious: that, of the two 2024 candidates, only Biden has committed to continuing arms shipments to Ukraine while much of the Maga wing of the GOP is vocally opposed to that prospect and refers to Ukraine as a corrupt state.

The ex-president’s last remaining primary challenger before she too dropped out, Haley was the only Republican to be even slightly competitive against Trump during the campaign and out of those who remained in the race as votes were cast, was the only one who had not endorsed him.

Nikki Haley speaks at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC on 22 May 2024, her first public remarks since leaving the presidential race (YouTube: Hudson Institute)
Nikki Haley speaks at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC on 22 May 2024, her first public remarks since leaving the presidential race (YouTube: Hudson Institute)

Her voters continue to turn out in primary after primary, signalling to the Trump campaign the continued hestitance many GOP voters feel about backing the 88-times-charged former president who is awaiting verdict on his first of four criminal trials as of this week. Haley’s capitulation on Wednesday could blunt that trend, if Trump and his allies are able to project a message of GOP unification.

The former governor’s remarks, however, indicate that the Trump team has done little to reach out to her or her allies in the wake of her decision to bow out of the 2024 race. Trump himself even snubbed her earlier in May when he dismissed rumors suggesting that he was considering her to be his running mate. Numerous reports have indicated that the former president is seeking to staff his administration with election deniers, a category in which Haley does not fall.

Her signal that she will vote for her former rival in November is also as clear a sign as any that Haley sees a future for herself in GOP politics. Other center-right Republicans and even conservatives who have opposed Trump but have opted to retire from politics, such as former House Speaker Paul Ryan, have ceased such displays of loyalty.

Even having served in the first half of his administration, Haley’s heel turn is awkward compared to the endorsements of her former primary rivals Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott, who were all more vocally effusive to Trump even as they ran against him for the GOP nomination.

In her home state of South Carolina earlier this year, Haley argued that Republicans who publicly endorse the former president “publicly dread him” and the effect his movement is having on the larger GOP.

“Many of the same politicians who now publicly embrace Trump privately dread him,” she told supporters in Greenville. “Republicans know what a disaster Donald Trump has been and will continue to be. They are just too afraid to say the truth out loud.”