'I feel no need to kiss the ring' of Trump, Haley says as she refuses to drop out

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is vowing to stay in the 2024 Republican primary race despite being rejected by voters in the few early states so far and trailing rival Donald Trump in numerous polls.

As Haley said in a speech on Tuesday in South Carolina, her home state, she will be continuing her campaign because she believes her anti-Trump message is important and more voters elsewhere in the country deserve to be “heard.”

“Many of the same politicians who now publicly embrace Trump privately dread him. They know what a disaster he’s been and will continue to be for our party. They’re just too afraid to say it out loud,” Haley told supporters in Greenville.

“Well, I’m not afraid to say the hard truths out loud. 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 continued, drawing applause. “My own political future is of zero concern.”

She went on to make clear that, regardless of the outside chatter, she isn’t seeking to be Trump’s running mate or “trying to set up a future presidential run.”

At the same time, Haley suggested she would not keep running against the former president for the GOP nomination just to run against him. “My purpose has never been to stop Trump at all costs,” she said.

South Carolina will hold its Republican primary, the next big race in the nomination fight, on Saturday. “But on Sunday, I’ll still be running for president. I’m not going anywhere,” Haley said.

'i feel no need to kiss the ring' of trump, haley says as she refuses to drop out

Rachel Dankel, center right, poses for a photo with Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, center left, Feb. 19, 2024, in Greer, S.C.

According to 538’s polling average, she trails Trump by more than 30 points in South Carolina.

She is behind by similar margins in other states.

Haley has repeatedly pointed to the fact that only three states have voted so far in this year’s GOP nominating race, though she has lost in every one of those elections — including in Nevada, to “none of these candidates.”

“People have a right to have their voices heard,” Haley said on Tuesday. “And they deserve a real choice. … We don’t anoint kings in this country. We have elections.”

In her speech, she said she’d heard from “the American people” — a mother who “just wants a return to normalcy,” a high school student who “finally has hope that America will make it” — and they fueled her determination.

“They see the same polls as me. But more importantly, they have the same belief as me. They believe in America. They believe America can do so much better — that we must do better. And they know when the country’s future is on the line, you don’t drop out. You keep fighting,” Haley said. “In fact, you fight harder than ever.”

“Dropping out would be the easy route,” she continued. “I’ve never taken the easy route.”

'i feel no need to kiss the ring' of trump, haley says as she refuses to drop out

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a campaign event, Feb. 19, 2024, in Greer, S.C.

Haley made a similar case for herself during a campaign stop in Greer, South Carolina, on Monday night, telling her supporters she would stay in the GOP primary through Super Tuesday on March 5 and beyond.

“Go tell your family and friends that America’s depending on what they do on Saturday,” Haley said. “I promise you this, on Sunday, I’m headed to Michigan and then we’re going to Super Tuesday states and we’re going to keep on going.”

During her remarks on Tuesday, Haley continued to blast both Trump and President Joe Biden.

“The truth is, Americans already know what Joe Biden and Donald Trump will do,” she said. “But we’re just as concerned with who they are. They’re dividers at a time when America desperately, urgently needs a uniter. All they do is turn us against each other. Trump calls his fellow Americans vermin. These are dangerous times.”

“The majority of Americans don’t just dislike one candidate. They dislike both,” she said. “As a country, we’ve never seen such dissatisfaction with the leading candidates. We’ve never had so many Americans mired in pessimism and division. We still have a chance to restore their faith. I will fight as long as that chance exists.”

Haley, as she has done often on the trail, again cited Biden and Trump’s ages — at 81 and 77.

“We’re talking about the most demanding job in human history. You don’t give it to someone who’s at risk of dementia. You give it to someone who is disciplined — someone who can work day and night for eight years straight,” she said. “No vendettas. No drama. Just results.”

But whatever her “serious concerns” about Trump, she said, she was not “Never Trump” and “never have been.”

“Like most Americans, I have a handful of serious concerns about the former president,” she said. “But I have countless serious concerns about the current president.”

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