As Nikki Haley tours California, even some of her most ardent supporters can’t see a path

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

As Nikki Haley tours California, even some of her most ardent supporters can’t see a path

Elections 2024, Homepage News

Believe E. Pinho
Ziema Mehta

February 8, 2024

Nikki Haley had barely made it to the makeshift riser at the Wild Goose Tavern in Costa Mesa on Wednesday when the stoppages began.

You already lost, Nikki! a


A Trump supporter shouted, prompting security to shuffle the man out. As the salon door opened, an explosion of chants and boos from Trump protesters outside filled the room.

Never get mad at people like this, Haley said over the noise, sidestepping the incident with the trained


of a politician

had has

experienced similar situations before. My husband is currently deployed. And they sacrifice their lives every day so that we have the opportunity to do that and have freedom of speech. So we should never be angry about that.

The crowd of about 100 people cheered and Haley gracefully continued with her stump speech. But as Haley toured California this week, collecting votes and donating dollars, the incident highlighted her campaign’s biggest challenge: catching up to former President Trump. And in California, which is expected to give Trump all the Republican delegates in its March 5 primary, the question arises: Why should Californians support Haley?

It feels like a waste of time because she won’t be the nominee, said Jared Sichel, who watched the incident unfold from the back of the bar. If


Sichel, founder of Republican marketing firm Winning Tuesday, keeps a close eye on electoral politics, and he said the Republican Party is now Trump’s party, for better or worse.

During Tuesday’s Nevada primaries, Haley received

fewer votes than the indicated ballot paper

none of these candidates. Thursday Trump

was ready to win

the Nevada caucuses, which actually award delegates for the state.

Despite all odds, 34-year-old Austin, who declined to give his last name, insisted Haley could bring a return to normality in the country. The Los Angeles resident dismissed her position in the polls, saying he had a hard time believing the polls after 2016, when common predictions that Hillary Clinton would win turned out to be false.

I believe she is the right candidate to put our country on a path of optimism for our future here at home and strength on the world stage, Austin said.

While the former United Nations ambassador has lasted the longest in the race

against Trump

she has so far failed to meet an important challenge

.to Trump.

As expected, she finished third in the Iowa caucuses in January, trailing

Trump and

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who resigned less than a week later.

Haley then


to New Hampshire for her first head-to-head race against Trump. She saw her biggest increase in support, but still lost with 43% of the vote to Trump’s 54%. Still, she vowed to fight on and told supporters as much after the primaries that evening


This race is far from over.

I think the big question is whether or not she stays in, says Jon Fleischman, Republican strategist and former executive director of the Republican Party of California. She says she will stay in the race through Super Tuesday, but it seems to me that it would be an incredibly hard pill to swallow to actually be defeated by Donald Trump in the state that elected you governor.

Unless she manages to pull off a major upset

on February 24

in her home state of South Carolina, which currently looks like Trump according to the latest polls, she is expected to continue

to lose

to Trump for the remainder of the primary season., the poll aggregator, has Trump at 75.8% support across the board in the Republican primaries, while Haley is at 17.6%.

Why do they support her? Jon Gould, dean of the School of Social Ecology at UC Irvine, said of California voters. Number one: protest. Protest against Trump. Two: I hope there might be a chance she can pull it off. And three: The backup plan, because I think there are still some people who are wondering whether he will be the nominee in September, given whether some criminal cases end in conviction for him.

Tustin resident Jane Horrocks, 46, said she doesn’t normally attend political events but came to the Wild Goose


Wednesday morning to support Haley for one reason: we just want an alternative to Donald Trump.

And I also think she has the best chance of running against Joe Biden, added her 18-year-old son Jack, who is already registered to vote Republican in his first election.

The candidate herself often favors polls showing her surpassing Biden in a general election, leaving aside the challenge she faces in winning the primaries. For Republicans tired of losing by wide margins in the last few national elections, Haley’s electability is attractive.

John Cox, a former gubernatorial candidate in California, has pledged to be a delegate for Haley despite being endorsed by Trump in his 2018 run for governor. Trump is the only Republican who can beat Biden, Cox guessed, adding: I don’t think any of the Democrats can beat Nikki.

I want to win in November. I am not a Trump hater or a never Trumper by any means. But I want to win, Cox said. I want to win congressional seats, I want to win the Senate. I just feel like the president just took out so many people.

Haley is increasingly targeting that demographic of disaffected Republican voters. She has stepped up her attacks on Trump and Biden, calling them too old and chaotic for another term.

For a long time, she played nice with Trump, to the point where many people thought: Is she really running for vice president? said Fleischman. The past weeks, [she] has taken a really hard negative stance on Trump and I think she’s seen a backlash from anti-Trump donors because of that.

Gould said Orange County Republicans are in many ways Haley’s target audience.

In his recent poll on county political see-sawing, Gould found an emerging group of the OC electorate that he called modestly partisan Republicans, a demographic of mostly nonwhite and wealthy people who are attached to the Republican Party despite being felt left out of the national conversation. . They don’t care about culture war issues, the poll found, and could support taxpayer-funded measures on progressive issues.

It seems to me that her target audience is probably people who would have previously supported George HW Bush, and perhaps Reagan, Gould said. The expression they sometimes say to me is: they wonder what happened at their party? Where did their party go?

Mario Guerra, a member of the California Republican Party board of directors and former mayor of Downey, voted for Trump in both elections, but this year he filed to be a Haley delegate.

I think we need change. I think we need youth, we need leadership, Guerra said. I think she has shown her leadership qualities and I think she can lead our country. I think there are a lot of good things she can do for our country.

Haley’s tour this week took her to fundraisers in Northern California before heading south for a whirlwind Wednesday. After the stop in Costa Mesa, Haley headed to the Pacific Club in Newport Beach for an exclusive lunch with donors before ending her day in Los Angeles with another donor reception and supporters meeting.

It’s clear she’s coming here because there’s a lot of money to be raised, Gould said of Haley.

Wearing a blue blazer, Corona del Mar resident Steve Gabriel, 75, strolled into the Pacific Club fundraiser. He had met Haley before, and

what is

convinced that she is without a doubt the best presidential candidate. Her foreign policy experience better equips her for the job than Trump or Biden, he said.

In my opinion, there is no one in this country who is stronger than her because of her history, Gabriel said. There is no better person in this country right now to deal with China than her. And China is a threat.

But does Haley still have a shot at the presidency?

Unfortunately not, he said. But you never know. Fingers crossed.

Times staff writer Hannah Fry contributed to this report.


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