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Nikki Haley rides Iowa momentum, but likely for second place

Nikki Haley
Nikki Haley

A day prior to the Iowa caucuses, Nikki Haley addressed a lively audience at a barbecue spot in Ames near Iowa State University. Despite the freezing temperatures, the venue was packed with campaign volunteers, journalists, and a handful of undecided caucus-goers.

Acknowledging the cold weather, Haley humorously remarked, “This is truly cold. But we’re going to keep on going anywhere and everywhere. We’re going to go all the way until the last hour because we know what situation we’re in.”

Haley’s standing has seen an upswing lately as she gains traction in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. The latest Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom poll positioned Haley in second place in Iowa, securing 20% support among likely Republican caucus-goers, surpassing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who stood at 16%. However, the poll underscored the overarching challenge faced by Haley and other Republicans not named Donald Trump. Trump led comfortably in Iowa, garnering 48% of likely caucus-goers’ support, underscoring the formidable hurdle for any candidate aiming to topple the still-popular former president.

In her final appeal to Iowa voters, Haley directly addressed Trump, cautioning that his re-election would bring more “chaos” to an already tumultuous time for the nation. Despite aligning with many of Trump’s policies, Haley expressed concerns about the disorder associated with his leadership. She argued that the nation couldn’t endure four more years of chaos and highlighted her electability, pointing to a Wall Street Journal poll indicating her defeating Joe Biden by 17 points in a head-to-head matchup.

Haley’s message resonated with some Iowa voters as she navigated the state. Despite a blizzard disrupting events, she held town halls, and supporters praised her ideas, style, and levelheadedness. The electability argument also held sway, with some voters seeing her as having a statistically better chance.

However, Haley faced criticism in the lead-up to the caucuses, particularly for comments initially downplaying slavery’s role in the civil war, which she later clarified. Additionally, a remark in New Hampshire suggesting the state would “correct” the results of the caucuses drew backlash. Despite these stumbles, Haley’s strategy seemed to focus on making gains in New Hampshire, where she has narrowed Trump’s lead.

Iowa caucus-goers, attending her events, appeared pragmatic about this approach, with some anticipating that a second-place finish in Iowa could propel Haley to greater success in New Hampshire.

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