Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley raised a few eyebrows this weekend from conservatives, after the former South Carolina governor made a comment about changing “personalities” while discussing the upcoming Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.
“The structure of it is really amazing,” Haley told an interviewer on a local Iowa PBS station last week of the GOP primary process. “Iowa starts it. You change personalities, you go into New Hampshire.”
The presidential candidate was discussing whether she would support changing the order in which states vote in the Republican primary as Democrats did for their presidential primary process. She often remarks on how each state has its own personality.
At a recent event in Iowa, Haley called Iowans “patriotic,” “hardworking” and “very careful” while saying New Hampshire voters wear their “feelings on their sleeves,” and South Carolinians can “kick you with a smile.”
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Nikki Haley faces increased scrutiny as she shows momentum ahead of voting in Iowa and New Hampshire. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has seen poll numbers tighten with Haley as her numbers rise, hit the 51-year-old on the remark while answering questions following an event in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday.
DeSantis said it’s “just not going well” for Haley as she faces more scrutiny in the media. “I think she’s not showing an ability to be able to withstand that and to be able to answer the type of questions that you need. I mean you obviously saw she’s dealing with history, having trouble there, dissing Iowa with the things she said there … and now this saying that you change personalities once you leave Iowa and go to New Hampshire.”
Texas Rep. Chip Roy, who supports DeSantis, wrote in X, formerly Twitter, Saturday, “So – @NikkiHaley (allies) dump another $1.8 million against @RonDeSantis … so she can ‘changepersonalities’ to go to NH to ‘correct’ Iowans… & audition to be Trump’s VP ($0 against Trump)… to advance forever wars, open borders, & corporate interests. Got it. #DeSantis2024.”
Haley’s campaign hit back against the attacks, with spokeswoman AnneMarie Graham-Barnes telling Fox News Digital in a statement: “Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump are getting more and more desperate by the hour Nikki’s momentum is real and her vision is resonating, so they’re grasping at straws. Voters see right through it.”
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Iowa’s polls show former President Trump, who has also increased his attacks on Haley, including TV attack ads, with a double-digit lead over the other candidates (about 50%, according to a Real Clear Politics average), but Haley has closed the gap with DeSantis and the two are vying for second place with 15.7% and 18.4% respectively, with Vivek Ramaswamy in a distant fourth with 6%.
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at a campaign town hall in Rye, New Hampshire, on Tuesday. (Reuters/Brian Snyder)
“President Trump has long said he’d train his sights on whomever is number two in the race,” Jason Miller, a Trump adviser, told Politico recently. “Rob DeSanctimonious is approaching single digits everywhere and his campaign is on life support, which means it’s Nikki Haley’s turn in the barrel.”
Haley has struggled with other gaffes recently, most notably her answer in a New Hampshire town hall last month that failed to make any mention of slavery as the cause of the Civil War. She walked back the comments hours later, saying “of course” the war was about slavery, but her opponents continue to hound her about it.
She also faced heat for telling New Hampshire voters recently, “You know Iowa starts it. You know that you correct it … you know that my sweet state of South Carolina brings it home,” which she later described as a joke.
Haley noted the increased attacks she’s received from Trump and her other opponents during a town hall in Iowa Saturday, joking, “All these fellas are showing me way too much attention.”
She also derided Trump for a recent attack ad against her, which claimed she and President Biden both opposed Trump border security measures such as a wall.
“Isn’t that sweet of him, spending so much time and money against me?” she quipped to Fox News. She told Iowa voters Saturday that in reality she had said the wall was a start but more needed to be done to secure the border.
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“They’re taking little pieces and putting it together to make it look like what they want you to see,” Haley said of the other candidates’ attacks. “But you know what it all means. If they’re lying, it’s because they know they’re losing. It’s that simple. And if they’re going to lie about me, I’m going to tell you the truth about them.”