Nikki Haley: Trump spends more time ‘ranting’ than fighting for American people

<span>Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley campaigns in South Carolina, on Friday.</span><span>Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters</span>
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley campaigns in South Carolina, on Friday.Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
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Nikki Haley pressed her case on Sunday to become the Republican presidential nominee by launching a sharp attack on her rival Donald Trump as a candidate who is set to spend more time in court than on the campaign trail this year and is intent on ranting about his own supposed victimhood rather than fighting for the American people.

With less than three weeks to go before the Republican primary in her home state of South Carolina, which many observers see as the former governor and UN ambassador’s last stand, Haley attacked Trump for being more concerned with himself than with the future of the country. She told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning TV show that his multiple court cases, in which he faces 91 charges across four criminal cases, amounted to a “real issue”.

Turning Trump’s own words against him, Haley said that the former president was “going to be spending more time in a courtroom than he’s going to be spending on the campaign trail”. At a time when the US is “in disarray and the world is on fire, we need a president that’s going to give us eight years of focus and discipline, not one that’s going to be sitting there ranting about how he’s a victim.”.

She added that Trump, in recent days, “hasn’t once talked about the American people. And that’s a problem.”

She went on to accuse him of having a “temper tantrum” after she garnered 43% of the vote in New Hampshire last month. “Why? Because he wasn’t controlling the situation.”

Haley’s caustic attack on Trump came as he continues to command a seemingly unassailable lead in the Republican nomination contest. He comfortably won elections in Iowa and New Hampshire, and is now showing a double digit lead in opinion polls in South Carolina, where the Republican primary contest is on 24 February.

In the latest Washington Post-Monmouth University poll of potential Republican primary voters in South Carolina, Trump was 26 points ahead on 58% to Haley’s 32%.

As part of her increasingly direct assault on the standing and reputation of Trump, Haley has also taken to comparing him to Joe Biden. She pointedly predicted that if Trump became the Republican nominee, there would be a woman in the White House.

In that circumstance, “Joe Biden will win and Kamala Harris will become president,” she said.

She said that America deserved better than either Trump or Biden as leader. “Why are we doing this? We are allowing ourselves to have two 80-year-olds, who can’t serve eight years, who are both diminished whether it’s in their character or in their mental capacity.”

For his part, Biden surprised no one by taking more than 95% of the primary vote in South Carolina on Saturday. His two competitors, Dean Phillips, a congressman from Minnesota, and the self-help author Marianne Williamson, lagged far behind.

South Carolina has been promoted by the Democratic party as its first official primary election, partly out of recognition that it was the state in which African American voters gifted Biden a huge win in 2020 that lifted him to the Democratic nomination. Jim Clyburn, the Democratic congressman from South Carolina who was seminal in turning that vote to Biden, was asked by CNN whether the president was retaining the support of Black voters in this election cycle.

“Joe Biden has not lost any support among African Americans. You can go out and talk to 10 people, purposely find one who maybe gives off a different thought, but he has not lost any support among African Americans,” Clyburn said.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democratic party leader in the House of Representatives, hinted at better things to come for Biden as he struggles to best Trump in many opinion polls.

“It was a tremendous victory in South Carolina, a decisive one and I think it demonstrates that as we enter into the campaign season that the American people are beginning to focus on President Biden’s incredible track record of results,” he said.

Jeffries cited economic and health measures executed by the Biden administration as the US worked its way out from the Covid-19 pandemic, “allowing the American economy to emerge as the most advanced in the world”.

He added: “Yes, more needs to be done in addressing affordability and the inflationary pressures and President Biden has a vision to do that.”

Biden was scheduled to travel to Las Vegas on Sunday for a campaign event in the Historic Westside neighborhood ahead of Nevada’s Democratic primary on Tuesday.

Nevada is a key swing state for Biden to win again this year. He beat Trump by less than three points there in 2020, relying heavily on support from Hispanic and working-class union member voters in the Las Vegas area.

Biden needs a good showing in the Democratic primary, while the nominating race for the Republicans in Nevada is a confusing and messy one with two contests two days apart and Trump having a clear advantage over Haley.

Meanwhile, Haley made a cameo appearance on the US comedy staple Saturday Night Live.