Nikki Haley Is Running for President, the First G.O.P. Rival to Take On Trump

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, officially entered the race for president on Tuesday, a well hinted-at move that is likely to leave her the lone major Republican challenger to former President Donald J. Trump for many weeks, if not months, as other potential 2024 rivals bide their time.

By announcing early, Ms. Haley, 51, who called for “generational change” in her party, seized an opportunity for a head start on fund-raising and to command a closer look from potential Republican primary voters, whose support she needs if she is to rise from low single digits in early polls of the G.O.P. field.

She made the announcement in a video, vowing to take on adversaries both foreign and domestic.

“Some people look at America and see vulnerability. The socialist left sees an opportunity to rewrite history. China and Russia are on the march. They all think we can be bullied, kicked around,” Ms. Haley said. “You should know this about me: I don’t put up with bullies. And when you kick back, it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels.”

Ms. Haley’s campaign has drawn encouragement from many polls showing that in a hypothetical multicandidate field, Mr. Trump wins less than 50 percent of Republican voters. Her entry into the race underscores how the former president has failed to scare off rivals in his third presidential campaign, announced in November after a historically disappointing midterms for Republicans

Ms. Haley is best known on the national stage for pursuing Mr. Trump’s foreign policy agenda for two years at the U.N..

As she seeks a broader following, Ms. Haley plans to lean into cultural issues, denouncing Democrats for pushing “socialism” in government and “wokeism” in schools, while citing her own biography as the daughter of Indian immigrants who rose to be South Carolina’s first female governor, and first nonwhite governor, as a rebuke of leftist claims that America harbors “systemic racism.”

The Run-Up to the 2024 Election

The jockeying for the next presidential race is already underway.

  • G.O.P. Field: For months, Donald J. Trump has been the lone Republican to formally enter the 2024 presidential contest, but that is about to end. Here is a look at who is eyeing a run.
  • DeSantis’s Challenge: Gov. Ron DeSantis has pursued a strategy of conflict avoidance with Mr. Trump in the shadow G.O.P. primary. But now he faces the pressing question of how long this approach can work.
  • Education Issues: Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis are seizing on race and gender issues in schools, but such messages had a mixed record in the midterms.
  • Harris’s Struggles: With President Biden appearing all but certain to run again, concerns are growing over whether Kamala Harris, who is trying to define her vice presidency, will be a liability for the ticket.

Her announcement reversed a statement in 2021 that she would not run if Mr. Trump were a candidate. She was a rare figure to leave the Trump administration while earning praise from Mr. Trump rather than a parting insult. Mr. Trump recently said that when Ms. Haley informed him she was testing a run, he told her, “You should do it.”

That the former president has so far not coined an insulting nickname or otherwise attacked Ms. Haley is a sign, perhaps, of his lingering regard for her, as well as the perception that she was not a major threat.

Since leaving the Trump administration in 2018, Ms. Haley has walked a fine line with the former president, praising his policies and accomplishments in office while offering criticism that appeals to Republican moderates. The day after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, she said his actions “will be judged harshly by history.”

But she opposed his impeachment for his actions surrounding the riot. “At some point, I mean, give the man a break,” she said on Fox News in late January 2021.

In the video, Ms. Haley does not mention Mr. Trump’s name, but she makes clear her intention to make a break with the Trump era. In addition to calling for a new generation to step up, she urges a return to “the values that still make our country the freest and greatest in the world.”

“Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections,” she said. “That has to change.”

In interviews last month, Ms. Haley swiped at the age of both Mr. Trump, 76, and President Biden, 80. “I don’t think you need to be 80 years old to go be a leader in D.C.,” she told Fox News.

To advance into the top tier of Republican presidential hopefuls, Ms. Haley’s campaign is banking on her skills as a retail campaigner in early primary states. She will travel to New Hampshire after a rally planned in South Carolina on Wednesday, for a pair of town hall-style events, and she plans to be in Iowa next week.

Ms. Haley, who was born in Bamberg, S.C., and graduated from Clemson University, worked for her family’s dress boutique, including as bookkeeper, before winning the first of three terms in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

She was elected governor in 2010, becoming the first woman to hold that office in South Carolina. After a mass shooting in 2015 at an African American church in Charleston by a white supremacist, she called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State Capitol.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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