DES MOINES, IA – With one week until the Iowa caucuses kick off the Republican presidential nominating calendar, Nikki Haley is a candidate on the rise.
But with her rise in the polls comes more scrutiny for Haley, and more incoming fire from her rivals for the GOP nomination and from President Biden.
On Monday, at a Fox News town hall hosted by “Special Report” chief political anchor Bret Baier and “The Story” executive editor and anchor Martha MacCallum, the former South Carolina governor who served as ambassador to the United Nations in former President Donald Trump’s administration fired back.
Among her targets, Biden, who hours earlier knocked her for failing to mention slavery when answering a question about the causes of the Civil War.
“Let me be clear for those who don’t seem to know: Slavery was the cause of the Civil War,” the president said hours earlier, as he gave a speech in Haley’s hometown. Biden spoke at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, a historic Black church where nine parishioners were killed in a horrific 2015 shooting.
“Mother Emanuel Church is a sacred place,” Haley said when asked to respond. “For Biden to show up there and give a political speech is offensive in itself.
And Haley stressed that “I don’t need someone who palled around with segregationists in the ’70s and has said racist comments all the way through his career lecturing me or anyone in South Carolina about what it means to have racism, slavery, or anything related to the Civil War.”
Biden came under criticism as he ran for the White House during the 2020 presidential cycle for speaking positively about two segregationist senators he had years earlier worked with in the Senate, as he noted that there was at least “some civility” in the chamber.
Haley also argued that “Biden should be fired” after the Pentagon failed to disclose that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had been hospitalized for elective surgery, leaving the president in the dark for a couple of days. “This is unbelievable that we have a situation like this.”
“I have a problem with the fact that Biden is not talking to his secretary of Defense every single day anyway,” Haley stressed.
Haley has soared in recent months, thanks in part to her well-regarded performances in the first three Republican presidential primary debates. Over the past month she hs caught up with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the latest Iowa polls and in national surveys, for a distant second place behind Trump, who remains the commanding front-runner for the nomination as he makes his third straight White House run.
And Haley has surged to second place and narrowed the gap with Trump in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary and votes second – just eight days after Iowa.
Trump and his political allies have increasingly taken aim at Haley in recent weeks. The Trump campaign and an aligned super PAC are running new ads that blast Haley over the combustible issue of border security and illegal immigration.
“Haley even opposed Trump’s wall and Haley repeatedly pushed amnesty for illegals,” the narrator in a new spot that started running Monday claimed. “Nikki Haley – too weak, too liberal, to fix the border.”
Firing back, Haley argued “just because President Trump says something doesn’t make it true.”
“He’s lying about it,” she stressed. “And I’ll tell you the reason he’s lying about it is because he’s taking snippets of things I said. I said you shouldn’t just do the border wall. You have to do more than that. That’s what I said.”
But Haley and her campaign take the increased attacks as a sign that Trump’s increasingly concerned about her upward mobility in the polls.
“I appreciate all the attention President Trump is giving me. It is quite sweet and thoughtful of him,” she said.
Trump and his allies aren’t the only ones taking aim at Haley. DeSantis and two super PACs aligned with his campaign are also training their fire on Haley.
A recent ad claims that Haley was inspired by former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who’s a popular target for Republicans.
“DeSantis is desperate. He’s lying because he’s losing,” Haley charged. “I never said Hillary Clinton was an inspiration.”
DeSantis joins Fox News Tuesday for a similar town hall, with Trump taking questions from Baier and MacCallum on Wednesday.