Tuesday night’s set back for the GOP in a closely watched special congressional election in the suburbs of New York City armed GOP presidential contender Nikki Haley with more ammunition against current frontrunner, former President Trump.

“Let’s just say the quiet part out loud. Donald Trump continues to be a huge weight against Republican candidates,” Haley campaign national spokesperson Olvia Perez-Cubas argued in a statement. “Despite the enormous and obvious failings of Joe Biden, we just lost another winnable Republican House seat because voters overwhelmingly reject Donald Trump.”

Perez-Cubas claimed that “until Republicans wake up, we will continue to lose. Time for a new generation of conservative leadership that doesn’t turn off the American people.”


Pointing to GOP setbacks in the 2018, 2020 and 2022 elections, Haley has long made the argument that Republicans are tired of losing under Trump a key part of her campaign trail stump speech. She has been campaigning in South Carolina, where she was a two-term governor before joining the Trump administration as ambassador to the U.N.

Nikki Haley campaign calls Nevada caucus 'rigged' for Trump

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley waves to a crowd during a campaign event at New Realm Brewing Co. on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, in Charleston, South Carolina. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

In the special election, former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi defeated GOP county lawmaker Mazi Pilip to fill a vacant House seat once held by former Republican Rep. George Santos, who was expelled from the chamber in December.

Trump returns to South Carolina on Wednesday to hold a rally in North Charleston with 10 days to go until the state’s Republican presidential primary.

After double-digit victories in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, and landslide wins in Nevada and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the former president is moving closer to locking up the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Polls suggest he holds a very large double-digit lead in the latest public opinion polls in the Palmetto State over Haley, his last remaining major rival.

Haley, as she faces a steep uphill climb to upset Trump, has been turning up the volume on her attacks on the former president in recent weeks. On Tuesday, her campaign launched a new TV ad emphasizing the “chaos” that will ensue if Trump returns to the White House. Haley is also reiterating her claims that Trump is “unhinged.”


Mazi Pilips loses special congressional election in New York

Republican congressional candidate Mazi Pilip, a Nassau County lawmaker, speaks to supporters after conceding the NY-03 special election to former Democratic Rep. Tom Souzzi, on Feb. 13, 2024 in East Meadow, New York.  (Fox News – Paul Steinhauser )

With the GOP hanging on to a razor-thin majority in the House, national Republicans and Democrats poured big bucks into a race where immigration and border security, crime and abortion were the top issues, and where the election was seen as a bellwether ahead of the all-but-certain November White House rematch between Trump and President Biden.

The Long Island district, held for a decade by Democrats, was flipped by Santos in the 2022 midterms. However, Santos was kicked out of Congress less than a year into his tenure, after he was exposed for lying about his background and indicted for a slew of financial crimes.

Suozzi, who represented the district for six years before running unsuccessfully for governor, repeatedly tied Pilip to Santos, as well as to Trump.

With the Republican majority in the House slipping to 219-213 once Suozzi is sworn in, the pickup by the Democrats now puts the GOP’s grip on the chamber further in peril.

Pilip, an Ethiopian Jew who fled to Israel at age 12 to escape persecution and later enlisted and served in the Israeli military before immigrating to the United States, was a former Democrat who argued the party “left me and many others” She repeatedly tied Suozzi to Biden and blamed her opponent for the migrant crisis.

While Pilip was praised by Nassau County Republicans on Tuesday evening after her defeat, Trump slammed her in a late night social media posting, calling her a “foolish woman” and claiming she lost on Tuesday because she did not endorse him.

Donald Trump at a rally

Republican presidential candidate and former President Trump arrives on stage during a Get Out The Vote rally at Coastal Carolina University on Feb. 10, 2024 in Conway, South Carolina. South Carolina holds its Republican primary on February 24. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“Republicans just don’t learn, but maybe she was still a Democrat? I have an almost 99% Endorsement Success Rate in Primaries, and a very good number in the General Elections, as well, but just watched this very foolish woman, Mazi Melesa Pilip, running in a race where she didn’t endorse me and tried to ‘straddle the fence,’ when she would have easily WON if she understood anything about MODERN DAY politics in America,” Trump argued on his Truth Social platform.


After not campaigning in person in South Carolina for two months, Wednesday’s rally is Trump’s second in the state in four days.

Nikki Haley and Donald Trump

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former President Trump. (Getty Images)

Haley has been campaigning vigorously in her home state and kicked off a bus tour this past weekend. However, she is heading to Texas on Thursday and Friday for fundraisers and to campaign in one of the 15 states holding Republican nominating contests on Super Tuesday in early March.

Haley raised money and campaigned last week in California, another large Super Tuesday state. The swings through Texas and California appear in part to be a marker for Haley as she pushes back against calls by some Republicans to drop out of the race and allow Trump to focus on facing off with Biden in November.

Fox News’ Chris Pandolofo, Deirdre Heavey and Kirill Clark contributed to this report.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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