WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Nikki Haley received an attentive reception from a sold-out ballroom of Republican activists, a positive sign for her 2024 aspirations after a falling out with former President Donald Trump imperiled her standing with grassroots conservatives.
Speaking Thursday evening to about 500 people gathered for an Iowa Republican Party fundraising dinner, Haley, in prepared and extemporaneous remarks, dished out red meat about the dangers that President Joe Biden, socialism, and China pose to the United States and told stories about her tenure in Trump’s Cabinet. Over the course of about 30 minutes, the former ambassador to the United Nations was interrupted with approving applause about 20 times.
Afterward, this crowd of likely 2024 caucusgoers gave Haley’s speech a thumbs-up — particularly her hawkish comments on the national security imperative of confronting a rising Beijing. They said friction with Trump stemming from her criticism of his handling of the post-election period and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol will not preclude Iowa Republicans from considering her if she runs for president.
“I was impressed,” said Mark Maxwell, 64, of Des Moines. “She didn’t say anything I didn’t like or I didn’t agree with.”
“I was very surprised,” added Cheri Richards, 75, of Ottumwa. “I feel like I heard her heart and got to see the knowledge that she’s acquired.” Richards is a strong Trump supporter but does not view Haley’s recent feud with the former president as disqualifying. “If anything, I think it shows that she has her own opinions, her own thoughts, and has the guts to present them and let it fall as it may.”
In her keynote to the annual Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner, Haley mentioned Trump three times and made no mention of their disagreement over his refusal to concede defeat to Biden and culpability in the Jan. 6 ransacking of the U.S. Capitol by his grassroots supporters. She did not even make subtle allusions to the spat.
Rather, Haley credited Trump for Vice President Kamala Harris’s future visit to the Mexican border and said he “put America first” and garnered the respect of America's adversaries — the “polar opposite” of Biden. Compare that accommodating approach to the former president on this thorny subject matter to the route taken by some of the other Republican 2024 contenders.
Former Vice President Mike Pence gushed over Trump during an early June speech at a county GOP fundraiser in New Hampshire. But he also raised the issue of their differences of opinion over Jan. 6 unprompted, signaling that he intends to stand his ground against attacks from Trump that have put his 2024 prospects at risk. “I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that day,” Pence said.
Meanwhile, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who ran for president in 2016 and is also mulling a White House bid, regularly chastises Trump for his post-election behavior.
Haley, accused by critics and some loyal Trump supporters of flip-flopping on her support for the 45th president, has attempted to put the row behind her, focusing on plans to boost Republicans running for office in 2022 and building her political operation. The strategy might be working. During a multiday swing through Iowa in late June, Haley was in-demand, headlining fundraisers for Gov. Kim Reynolds, state House Speaker Pat Grassley, and other prominent Iowa Republicans.
But perhaps the best gauge of her current standing was the response from the Republican activists (county party officials, members of grassroots Republican groups) and legislators who attended the dinner. They vote in Iowa’s caucuses, traditionally the first nominating contest on the GOP calendar, and are in close touch with rank-and-file primary voters. They were pleased with Haley, a positive reaction affirmed by observant GOP operatives in the room who regularly attend events such as these.
“People were engaged. People were laughing when she told stories,” Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said. “It’s very obvious that we still appreciate the president and his policies here. It’s also very obvious that we appreciate all the people that were a part of the American First movement, and Nikki Haley, obviously with her stories and her anecdotes and what she did as U.N. ambassador, was a major part of that.”
Haley certainly did not hurt her cause by sticking around afterward to shake hands with members of the audience and pose for pictures and selfies.
Washington Examiner Videos
Original Author: David M. Drucker
Original Location: Iowa Republicans say Nikki Haley's row with Trump not a deal-breaker
#Iowa #Republicans #Nikki #Haleys #row #Trump #dealbreaker