Haley to hit Trump on spending record in closed-door Saturday speech

Nikki Haley will ding former President Trump when she addresses a powerful conservative group Saturday — and she’ll take aim at other 2024 rivals who have yet to enter the race.

Haley, who launched her White House campaign in mid-February, will speak to a Club for Growth donor retreat in Palm Beach, Fla. — an event to which Trump was notably not invited.

“I know there’s a Republican candidate out there who you did not invite to this conference,” Haley will say, according to prepared remarks shared with The Hill. “I appreciate being one you did invite.”

Haley will jab at Trump for his spending record during his White House years.

“The last two Republican presidents added more than $10 trillion to the national debt. Think about that. A third of our debt happened under just two Republicans,” Haley will say, referencing Trump and former President George W. Bush.

Her remarks also include sharp reference to the use of congressional earmarks and unnamed “politicians who self-deal.”

Trump’s spending record while in office is a point of vulnerability with conservatives as he seeks to take back the White House.

The Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, has noted that Trump’s actions during his single term in office have been projected as “costing $7.8 trillion over the decade compared to $5.0 trillion for President Obama and $6.9 trillion for President Bush.”

Trump’s defenders note that a large chunk of his spending came in response to the exceptional circumstance of the COVID-19 pandemic, which took hold in the last year of his presidency.

Haley served in the Trump administration as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations but has had a complicated political relationship with him.

She was critical of him in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot but later said she would not run against him for the GOP nomination in 2024 if he entered the race — a position she ultimately reversed herself on.

In her early days on the campaign trail, she has cast herself as a break with the “status quo” and has taken the position that Trump was suited to his particular time but that the nation needs to move on.

She has also proposed mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over the age of 75. Trump is 76 and President Biden is 80.

Trump and Haley are the only major candidates in the Republican field so far, though they have recently been joined by conservative businessman and author Vivek Ramaswamy.

Speculation is bubbling around several other big Republican names, most prominently Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Former Vice President Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) are among the others who could enter the race.

In her Club for Growth speech, Haley will jab at those who are “hemming and hawing on the sidelines, waiting to decide what to do.”

She will also urge donors to the group to support her, asserting that they should not “wait around for guys who are sitting on the sidelines unable to make up their mind.”

Much of Haley’s speech is given over to what she sees as her own fealty to fiscally conservative principles and her willingness to fight entrenched interests in pursuit of those principles.

She will also say that she is “not afraid” to talk about reforms to Social Security and Medicare, though her address does not go into specifics.

The backstory to the Club for Growth event has its fair share of political intrigue.

The donor retreat is taking place at the same time as CPAC — the Conservative Political Action Conference — is meeting just outside Washington, D.C.

CPAC has taken on an increasingly strong pro-Trump flavor in recent years. It has also been enmeshed in controversy because of sexual assault allegations made against its leading figure, Matt Schlapp. Schlapp denies the allegations.

Several potential GOP presidential candidates stayed away from CPAC this year, including DeSantis, Pence, Scott and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

Haley did speak, on Friday, but received a polite rather than rapturous reception during the speech itself. She was met by shouts of “We love Trump” as she walked around the event location afterward.

Trump will headline CPAC with a speech set for later Saturday afternoon.

Trump has had a tumultuous relationship with the Club for Growth and its president David McIntosh. The two were once close but McIntosh last month said that the GOP should be “open to another candidate.”

Trump hit back in a social media posting, complaining about “the Club For NO Growth, an assemblage of political misfits, globalists, and losers.”

Meanwhile, DeSantis spoke at the Club for Growth’s event Thursday.

DeSantis will travel to Iowa next week, for the first time this campaign cycle. He has said little in public about a 2024 campaign but is seen as increasingly certain to enter the race.

Haley, in her speech, will take on congressional Republicans as well as possible presidential rivals.

“Don’t let the media tell you Republicans and Democrats can’t work together,” Haley will say, “They always seem to work just fine when they’re spending your money.”

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