Showdown in South Carolina

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From the The Morning Dispatch on The Dispatch

Happy Wednesday! We begin this morning’s TMD with a PSA: Apparently, we’re not supposed to dry out wet iPhones in rice anymore, since doing so could cause “small particles of rice to damage your iPhone,” according to Apple. Who knew tiny bits of grain were titanium’s kryptonite?

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield voted against an Algerian-proposed Security Council resolution advocating for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the release of all of the hostages, wielding veto power to block the measure. The United Kingdom abstained from the vote, and representatives of the 13 other countries on the council voted in favor of the resolution. “We have made incredibly clear that the resolution before the Council would not achieve the goal of a sustainable peace, and may, in fact, run counter to it,” Thomas-Greenfield said yesterday. “Proceeding with a vote today was wishful and irresponsible.” She had previously said such a resolution would jeopardize ongoing peace talks. Meanwhile, Israel ordered the evacuation of two neighborhoods in Gaza City on Tuesday, signaling additional fighting could be coming to the northern part of the enclave after the IDF’s focus has shifted to the southern part of the Strip in recent weeks.

  • Between 800 and 1,000 Ukrainian troops are reportedly missing and feared to have been captured by Russia following a chaotic withdrawal from the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka over the weekend. The city’s capture by Russian forces is one of the most significant changes to the front lines in Ukraine in months.

  • Russian authorities on Tuesday announced the arrest of a dual U.S.-Russian citizen in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on suspicion of treason for her alleged efforts to raise funds for Ukraine in its battle against Moscow’s invasion. Also Tuesday, Russian state media reported that unspecified charges had been filed against Alexei Navalny’s younger brother Oleg and that he has been added to the country’s “wanted list”—and a Russian court upheld Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s detention in Moscow, ensuring he will remain in prison past the one-year anniversary of his arrest on March 30. Meanwhile, a Russian defector who turned over a Russian helicopter to Ukraine for cash last summer appears to have been killed in Spain, found shot to death and run over by a car in the coastal town of Villajoyosa.

  • President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. would unveil new sanctions against Russia on Friday for the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The sanctions will be part of a “substantial package covering a range of different elements of the Russian defense industrial base, and sources of revenue for the Russian economy that power Russia’s war machine, that power Russia’s aggression and that power Russia’s repression,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed Tuesday. Meanwhile, the U.S. has reportedly told allies that Russia could put its nuclear anti-satellite weapon—about which GOP Rep. Mike Turner sounded the alarm earlier this month—into space as early as this year, though Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied the allegations.

  • The FBI and law enforcement agencies from more than 10 countries, including the U.K., collaborated to dismantle the Lockbit ransomware gang, the Justice Department announced Tuesday. The agencies seized control of infrastructure used to target more than 2,000 victims and extort more than $120 million from them in exchange for access to their hostage data. The DOJ indicted two Russian nationals related to the operation, and Polish and Ukrainian law enforcement made two arrests in their respective countries.

  • Hunter Biden’s legal team alleged Tuesday that former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, who was charged last week with making false claims against both President Biden and his son, had been fed information by Russian intelligence officials. According to a court filing, Smirnov “is actively peddling new lies that could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November. In light of that fact there is a serious risk he will flee in order to avoid accountability for his actions.” The younger Biden’s lawyers contend that Smirnov’s actions led to the collapse of last summer’s plea deal.

  • Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley vowed in a speech Tuesday that she would not withdraw from the Republican presidential primary race even if she loses Saturday’s primary in her home state of South Carolina, where she’s polling significantly behind former President Donald Trump. “I’m not afraid to say the hard truths out loud,” she said. “I feel no need to kiss the ring. And I have no fear of Trump’s retribution. I’m not looking for anything from him.” She also repeated her argument that Trump and Biden are both too old to be president.

  • Republican businessman Eric Hovde announced on Tuesday that he is running for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin against incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Hovde, the only Republican challenger for the seat, has the backing of National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines. This will be Hovde’s second run for Senate, after losing the Republican primary to former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson in 2012.

It Won’t Be Like This For Long

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a campaign event at Clemson University on February 20, 2024, in Greenville, South Carolina, ahead of South Carolina’s Republican primary on February 24. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a campaign event at Clemson University on February 20, 2024, in Greenville, South Carolina, ahead of South Carolina’s Republican primary on February 24. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

It’s been nearly a month since our last check-in on the 2024 GOP primary, and while your Morning Dispatchers have greatly appreciated the respite, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday tried to remind the press—and, she hopes, throngs of South Carolina primary voters—that she is is still very much in the race.

Haley delivered a forceful speech ahead of Saturday’s GOP primary in the Palmetto State, asserting that she is the best candidate—Republican or Democrat—to lead America into the future. She offered some of her strongest rebukes yet of former President Donald Trump, the current Republican frontrunner, promising not only to continue the fight until the last person votes but that she would not “kiss the ring” should she ultimately be defeated. Although Trump has continued to rack up legal fees in recent weeks, he’s also racking up delegates—and a memo released by his campaign yesterday predicts the race could officially be over as soon as mid-March.

Three states and one U.S. territory have so far voted and allocated delegates in the Republican primary: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Despite a closer-than-expected second-place finish in New Hampshire, Haley’s prospects haven’t really improved since it became a one-on-one race. Trump has won all 30 delegates up for grabs so far in February—26 in the Nevada caucuses and four in the Virgin Islands. Trump did run unopposed in the Nevada caucuses, with Haley—citing what she called an unfair process in the caucuses—opting to run in the symbolic Nevada primary instead.

But even in that race—without Trump—Haley failed to claim the top prize, losing to “none of these candidates” 63 percent to 30 percent.

A candidate must secure 1,215 delegates to win the GOP nomination—and with 92 delegates allocated so far, Trump leads Haley 63-17. But Haley remains defiant.“The presidential primaries have barely begun,” she said in her speech yesterday, delivered at Clemson University. “Just three states have voted. Three. That’s it. After this weekend, we’ll be at four. That’s not a lot. In the 10 days after South Carolina, another 21 states and territories will vote.”

Haley is correct that very few delegates have thus far been allocated—but her optimistic math is quickly coming up against the brick wall that is the electoral calendar. More than 70 percent of all delegates will be awarded before the end of March, and on Super Tuesday, scheduled this year for March 5, nearly one-third of all delegates will be assigned in contests held in 15 states and one territory. Trump has led every poll of these states for months, and his lead in most of them is substantially bigger than his current 25-point lead in South Carolina.

Despite the long odds, Haley insists she will campaign through Super Tuesday undeterred, and so far her rhetoric, campaign schedule, and fundraising prowess suggest she’s in the race for the long haul. January was the Haley campaign’s strongest fundraising month so far, seeing $16.5 million in donations. She’s booked ad time beyond the South Carolina primary, with spots in Michigan set to begin tomorrow. She has increasingly focused her fire on both Trump and President Joe Biden’s mental fitness for office. And despite previous assertions that she would support the eventual Republican nominee, in recent days Haley has worked to distance herself from that promise. “Keep in mind, I am running against him for a reason,” she told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl over the weekend when asked if she would support Trump should he win the nomination. “I’m running against him because … I don’t think he’s the right person at the right time, I don’t think he should be president.”

And that was all before Tuesday’s speech, which ramped up her attacks on the “two old men” most likely to face off in the general election.

Haley pushed back against growing calls to end her campaign and line up behind the frontrunner. “People have a right to have their voices heard,” Haley said yesterday. “And they deserve a real choice, not a Soviet-style election where there’s only one candidate and he gets 99 percent of the vote. We don’t anoint kings in this country. We have elections. And Donald Trump, of all people, should know we don’t rig elections.” She pointed out the significant percentage of voters Trump hasn’t been winning in GOP primary contests, and throughout the speech cast herself as a happy warrior and a uniter. “All they do is turn us against each other,” she said. “Trump calls his fellow Americans vermin. Biden calls his fellow Americans fascists. Trump and Biden don’t just demand that people pick sides, they demand that their followers hate the other side.”

The ultimate message of the speech, though, was that Haley isn’t going anywhere—and she wouldn’t be pressured by Trump. “I feel no need to kiss the ring,” she said, to cheers. “And I have no fear of Trump’s retribution. I’m not looking for anything from him. My own political future is of zero concern.”

Trump, meanwhile, is steamrolling through rallies in between court appearances across the country as he campaigns again for a second term. And he isn’t shying away from making his legal troubles an issue. During a town hall event hosted by Fox News on Tuesday night, Trump said that he had been indicted “all because of the fact that [he is] in politics.” When asked by moderator Laura Ingraham if he saw himself as “a potential political prisoner in the United States,” Trump responded affirmatively. “If I were losing in the polls, they wouldn’t even be talking about me,” said the former president. “Although they hate me so much, I think if I got out they’d still, ‘Let’s pursue this guy, we can’t stand this guy.’”

Ahead of Haley’s speech yesterday, Trump’s campaign released a memo in which the former president’s top strategists Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles predicted the “end [was] near” for Haley’s campaign. Haley (who the memo referred to unironically as a “wailing loser hell-bent on an alternative reality”) will quickly come up against an insurmountable delegate deficit, the memo argued, and even according to “overly generous” calculations, Trump will lock up the nomination by March 19. By using “current data,” the Trump campaign argued, the former president will secure the nomination on March 12.

And what then? Would Haley presumably endorse Trump as the GOP nominee? Some in Trump’s orbit expect Haley to fall in line. But her recent broadsides against Trump have become increasingly difficult to walk back. “Getting rid of this division and hate is hugely important,” she told Fox News’ Martha McCallum on Tuesday night. “But we can’t do it with two candidates who literally just hate on the other side, and encourage their supporters to hate on the other side. It’s not normal. None of this is normal.”

Worth Your Time

  • Threats of political violence are more common than you think, old friend David French argued in the New York Times, but all hope is not lost. “The intimidation is systemic and ubiquitous, an acknowledged tactic in the playbook of the Trump right that flows all the way down from the violent fantasies of Donald Trump himself,” he wrote. “In the summer of 2021, I received a quite direct threat after I’d written a series of pieces opposing bans on teaching critical race theory in public schools. My wife and I knew that it was almost certainly a bluff. But we also knew that white nationalists had our home address, both of us were out of town and the only person home that night was my college-age son. So we called the local sheriff, shared the threat, and asked if the department could send someone to check our house. Minutes later, a young deputy called to tell me all was quiet at our home. When I asked if he would mind checking back frequently, he said he’d stay in front of our house all night. Then he asked, ‘Why did you get this threat?’ I hesitated before I told him. Our community is so MAGA that I had a pang of concern about his response. ‘I’m a columnist,’ I said, ‘and we’ve had lots of threats ever since I wrote against Donald Trump.’ The deputy paused for a moment. ‘I’m a vet,’ he said, ‘and I volunteered to serve because I believe in our Constitution. I believe in free speech.’ And then he said words I’ll never forget: ‘You keep speaking, and I’ll stand guard.’ I didn’t know that deputy’s politics and I didn’t need to. When I heard his words, I thought, that’s it. That’s the way through. Sometimes we are called to speak. Sometimes we are called to stand guard. All the time we can at least comfort those under threat, telling them with words and deeds that they are not alone. If we do that, we can persevere. Otherwise, the fear will be too much for good people to bear.”

Presented Without Comment

Politico: Trump Calls His Civil Fraud Verdict a ‘Form of Navalny’

Also Presented Without Comment

CBS News: Kim Jong Un Apparently Liked Vladimir Putin’s Russian-made Limousine So Much That Putin Gave Him One

Also Also Presented Without Comment

Mediaite: Kari Lake Insists McCain Insults Were Just Campaign Talk, Tells Republicans to Grow ‘Thicker Skin’

While running for governor, Lake hurled multiple insults at McCain, despite past praise. She told KTAR that the talk, however, can be chalked up to a campaign where she was dealing with “nuclear bomb-style incoming, tens of millions of dollars in attack ads from a McCain Republican.”

“It was said in jest. And I think that if John McCain, who had a great sense of humor, would have heard it, he would have laughed,” she said, adding that Republicans need to grow “thicker skin” and “learn to take a joke.”

Toeing the Company Line

  • Alex fact-checked recent claims that energy weapons are causing wildfires in Chile and Hawaii—and that painting your roof blue can protect you from such weapons.

  • In the newsletters: Nick pondered why (🔒) foreign policy is the last area where congressional Republicans are willing to somewhat buck Trump’s wishes.

  • On the podcasts: Jonah is joined by CNN anchor Jake Tapper on the latest episode of The Remnant to discuss Jake’s new show, United States of Scandal, which takes a darkly comedic look at some of the wildest political controversies in American history.

  • On the site: Jonah argues that the efforts by some on the right to cast Trump as an “American Navalny” are a grotesque exercise in Soviet-style propaganda.

Let Us Know

Why do you think Nikki Haley is staying in the presidential race in spite of the overwhelming odds against her?

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