Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley finished third in Iowa, far behind former President Donald Trump, but her message looking ahead to New Hampshire is the Republican primary is now a two-person contest.
Her bold claim comes after Haley earned 21,085 caucus votes, or 19.7%, putting her behind second-place finisher Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had 23,420 votes, or 21.2%. Trump trounced all of his challengers, winning an outright majority (51%) with 56,260 votes in a historic caucus victory that resoundingly confirmed his frontrunner status.
Despite finishing third, Haley told supporters gathered at her campaign headquarters at the Marriott Hotel in West Des Moines that she is in the best position to take on Trump as the primary moves on to New Hampshire.
“I was at 2% in the polls. But tonight Iowa did what Iowa always does so well. The pundits will analyze the results from every angle. We get that. But when you look at how we’re doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina and beyond, I can safely say tonight, Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race,” Haley said.
DESANTIS EDGES HALEY FOR SECOND-PLACE FINISH IN IOWA, BEHIND TRUMP’S HISTORIC CAUCUS WIN
Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a caucus night party at the Marriott Hotel in West Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
Her comments were immediately mocked by Never Back Down, a pro-DeSantis super PAC,
“Nikki Haley repeatedly claimed she was in second place in Iowa,” Never Back Down posted on X. “She finished third.”
Before the election results came in Monday night, Haley grabbed momentum during the fall months and caught up with DeSantis for second place in polls in Iowa and in national surveys in recent weeks.
She also surged to second place, surpassing DeSantis and narrowing the gap with Trump, in New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP nominating calendar.
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Former President Donald Trump, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy are vying for the Republican presidential primary nomination. (Getty Images)
With eyes forward to the Granite State’s Jan. 23 primary next week, Haley went on the attack against Trump in her speech, comparing him unfavorably to President Biden.
“I voted for Donald Trump twice. I was proud to serve in his administration. But when I say more of the same, you know what I’m talking about,” Haley said. “It’s both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, they have more in common than you think.
“You know, 70% percent of Americans don’t want another Trump-Biden rematch. A majority disapprove of both of them. Trump and Biden are both about 80 years old, yet Trump and Biden both put our country trillions of dollars deeper in debt and our kids will never forgive them for it,” she continued.
“Trump and Biden both lack a vision for our country’s future because both are consumed by the past, by investigations, by vendettas, by grievances. America deserves better.”
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It’s unclear what Haley’s path to victory will be considering Trump’s commanding lead in the upcoming New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, although recent polls suggest she stands in a distant second place in both contests ahead of DeSantis.
The DeSantis campaign told Fox News Digital in a statement that the governor will continue to New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond.
“They threw everything at Ron DeSantis. They couldn’t kill him. He is not only still standing, but he’s now earned his ticket out of Iowa. This is going to be a long battle ahead, but that is what this campaign is built for. The stakes are too high for this nation, and we will not back down,” a senior DeSantis campaign official said.
Haley argued she remains in the best position to beat Trump in the primary and Biden in November’s general election.
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“Our campaign is the last, best hope of stopping the Trump-Biden nightmare,” Haley said. Clutching polls that show her leading Biden in a hypothetical 2024 matchup, Haley argued that a Trump nomination would make the election a toss-up.
“Look what happens when I go head-to-head against Biden. We win in a landslide. Not in a landslide it’s not even close. That means no recounts, no lawsuits and no doubts,” Haley said.
Fox News Digital’s Paul Steinhauser and Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.
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