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    Nikki Haley Says She Will Not Drop Out After the South Carolina Primary


    Nikki Haley isn’t going anywhere. She has said as much behind closed doors at fund-raisers, reiterated it in recent news media appearances and made the promise on the stump, in front of audiences.

    And on Tuesday, just days before a heated Republican primary on her home turf, Ms. Haley said it again.

    “I feel no need to kiss the ring,” she said in Greenville, S.C., pledging to continue her pursuit of the 2024 Republican presidential nomination beyond Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, her home state. “I have no fear of Trump’s retribution. I’m not looking for anything from him. My own political future is of zero concern.”

    In what was perhaps her most forceful speech since she began her presidential campaign last year, she pushed back against skeptics who have long urged her to drop her long-shot bid for the nomination.

    Describing herself as David taking on Goliath, she said she was fighting not only someone bigger than herself but also “for something bigger” than herself. She argued that while other members of her party had given into a “herd mentality” and fallen in line behind former President Donald J. Trump, she would not.

    Ms. Haley also contended that many of the Republican politicians “who now publicly embrace Trump privately dread him” and were “too afraid” to speak up, despite knowing he had been “a disaster” for the party. She said Americans deserved a choice and “not a Soviet-style election where there’s only one candidate and he gets 99 percent of the vote.”

    “We don’t anoint kings in this country,” she said. “We have elections. And Donald Trump, of all people, should know we don’t rig elections.”

    The remarks — delivered in calm, dulcet tones before an invite-only audience of about 50 people, not including the press — were her sharpest yet against Mr. Trump and the way he has remade the Republican Party in his image. After taking a calibrated approach toward Mr. Trump for much of the race, Ms. Haley has assumed a more determined and combative stance as she has become his last major rival from a field of more than a dozen candidates.

    But Ms. Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and a United Nations ambassador under Mr. Trump, trails her former boss in her home state by double digits. The national outlook for her campaign does not look much brighter.

    In a memo from two advisers sent out on Tuesday, Mr. Trump, who for months fueled lies that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from him, suggested that Ms. Haley was “like any wailing loser hellbent on an alternative reality” and that she had been “rejected by those who know her the best” in South Carolina. The memo also contended that she had no path to the nomination, pointing to her string of losses so far.

    Mr. Trump was expected to make his own appearance later on Tuesday in Greenville at a Fox News town-hall-style event. Officials with his campaign believe that he will amass enough delegates to secure the nomination by March 19, if not a week earlier.

    As questions about when she will leave the race continue to dog her campaign, Ms. Haley has reiterated her promise to stay in through Super Tuesday, on March 5, regardless of Saturday’s outcome. Some of her closest allies have not ruled out the possibility that she will stay in even longer.

    Her campaign has continued to collect funds from top-dollar donors and to announce the elected officials, business leaders and prominent community members helping lead her efforts across the country. Those include teams in Alaska, California, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

    Ms. Haley is planning to embark on a grueling travel schedule after South Carolina, with stops in Michigan, which will award delegates through both a primary on Feb. 27 and a convention on March 2, and Super Tuesday states such as Utah and Colorado.

    On Tuesday, she rejected claims that she has been running to be vice president — “I think I’ve pretty well settled that question,” she said to laughs — or to set herself up for a future run. In echoes of the vigorous response to her detractors that she has incorporated into her stump speech in recent days, she said a majority of Americans did not want a rematch between Mr. Trump and President Biden, giving her no reason to end her bid now.

    “Trump and Biden are two old men who are only getting older,” she said. “Nearly 60 percent of Americans say Trump and Biden are both too old to be president — because they are.”

    Ms. Haley also laid out her strongest argument to date against Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. She said both had “replaced normalcy with chaos” and were more concerned with their own images than with the state of the nation. They are “dividers at a time when America desperately, urgently, needs a uniter,” she said.

    She criticized Mr. Biden on his border and economic policies, and over his mental acuity. “Every time he opens his mouth, he sounds like his mind is closed-up shop,” she said of Mr. Biden.

    The Biden campaign declined to comment.

    But Ms. Haley reserved her heaviest criticism for Mr. Trump, even as she rejected the “never-Trump” label, saying, as she often does, that she voted for him in 2016 and 2020 and was proud to serve in his administration. She said he was spending more time in courtrooms than on the campaign trail and “getting meaner and more offensive by the day.” She called him distracted, “unstable and unhinged,” and “obsessed with his own demons.”

    “That’s not the way you win elections,” she said. “Well, I’ve dealt with bullies my entire life. They don’t intimidate me. They only motivate me further.”

    Ms. Haley closed by summarizing her biography and outlining a rosy, conservative vision for the future, describing herself as “the daughter of legal immigrants” and “a brown girl” who grew up in “a black-and-white world,” rising above hatred to become the first woman and woman of color to lead South Carolina.

    In an unusual moment for Ms. Haley, she held back tears as she spoke about her husband, Maj. Michael Haley, whose deployment to Africa has been the subject of some of Mr. Trump’s attacks. She said that she wished he were present but that he and other military members believed the country was worth dying for.

    “Now, I will continue to make my stand because America is worth living for,” she said.



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