Nikki Haley turns to Michigan ahead of Tuesday’s primary

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Nikki Haley, fresh off another loss to former President Donald J. Trump, took her faltering campaign Sunday to Michigan, warning that even if Trump clinches the 2024 Republican nomination, he has too much baggage to win in November.

At a rally north of Detroit, just a day after a 20-point loss in South Carolina, her own home state, Haley continued to interpret her loss as a worrying sign not for herself but for her opponent, saying it represented a significant 40 percent of Republican voters that the incumbent president could not snatch away. (The latest South Carolina primary results show her finishing with 39.5 percent to Trump’s 59.8 percent.)

“You cannot have a candidate who is going to win a primary and who cannot win a general election,” he insisted to gestures of approval and applause from hundreds of people packed into the ballroom of a hotel in Troy, Michigan.

The general election argument is one Haley has been making for months, and one that could prove potent in Michigan, a battleground state. But Haley faces an uphill road in Michigan, as well as the other swing states he is expected to visit this week ahead of the upcoming primary elections.

Trump narrowly lost Michigan to Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020 after a presidential term that alienated independent and suburban women, segments of the electorate that make up a large portion of Haley’s small but not insignificant base. And his campaign has counted the state as one of more than a dozen that are critical to his path to the nomination because its primaries are not limited to registered Republicans.

But the difficulty for Haley in Michigan, which holds its primary on Tuesday, is similar to that of early voting states: He is running for the GOP presidential nomination and the base is sticking with him. The strength he has shown among more moderate voters, even Democrats, has not been enough to overcome his significant lead.

Richard Czuba, an independent pollster in Lansing, Michigan, said the state had a long history of Republican and Democratic voters crossing paths in presidential primaries to swing races and send a message. But he predicted little chance of that happening for Ms. Haley. The results of this year’s state Republican primary are apparently such a foregone conclusion, thanks in large part to Trump’s dominance, that his polling firm had even stopped bothering to survey voters, he added.

“There is no race,” he said.

Ms. Haley’s campaign began running its first television ads in the state last week, targeting the Detroit area with part of what her staff said was a half-million-dollar purchase in the state. Her ally’s super PAC reported spending another half-million on ads in the Michigan market as of Saturday, according to federal documents.

Ms. Haley came to the state with little to no momentum. While he has continued to rack up donations (he raised $1 million from his grassroots supporters in less than 24 hours after his South Carolina primary loss, according to his campaign), Americans for Prosperity Action, the political network created by the Billionaire industrialist Koch brothers announced Sunday that he would no longer spend in support of his candidacy. Ms. Haley is expected to hold more fundraisers as she campaigns across the country this week.

In interviews Sunday, many of Haley’s supporters said they were grateful she kept fighting. Some were fed up with Trump’s control over the party and Michigan Republicans, and worried that his mercurial nature and slew of legal troubles did not bode well for the nation’s future. None of them wanted a rematch between Trump and Biden in November.

“Trump has a lot of problems in the courts alone,” said Denise McDonald, 65, a retired pension plan manager, “and both he and Biden walk a fine line just because of their age.”

On stage, Haley echoed Biden’s promises during the 2020 presidential election to return normalcy to American politics if elected, saying he was “speaking from the heart and soul of our country.” Since the field was narrowed to two candidates, out of more than a dozen, he has continued his harsh attacks on Trump, criticizing him for increasing the national debt, cozying up to dictators, promoting an isolationist foreign policy and trying to influence the government. Republican National Committee.

“He’s not going to get 40 percent by trying to take over the RNC to pay all his legal fees,” he said. “He’s not going to get the 40 percent if he’s not willing to change and do something that he recognizes that 40 percent. And why should 40 percent give in to him?

Her loss in South Carolina on Saturday was her first in the state’s history, where she became the first woman governor. Although she topped the polls there, garnering just under 40 percent of the vote, she still fell short of her own benchmark: she fared no better than the 43 percent support she received in New Hampshire in January. . In her election night speech and in a video released Sunday, vowing to keep fighting, Haley argued that the percentages were roughly the same, presenting herself as the voice of people seeking an alternative to a Trump-Biden rematch.

Polls in states he is expected to visit this week, including Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Utah and Virginia, show him far behind Trump.

Hours before the final votes were cast in South Carolina, Haley seemed to suggest a drawdown could be in the offing.

“We’re going to continue until Super Tuesday,” he told reporters on Kiawah Island, where he voted with his family at a polling station inside a gated community near his home. “That’s all I’ve thought about in terms of moving forward.”

Michigan will award just 16 of 55 delegates based on its primary results Tuesday. The rest will be allocated at his convention on Saturday, in a process that is likely to benefit Trump.

The state will make an interesting backdrop. Trump targeted voting in Michigan in his efforts to subvert the 2020 election. He won the state by nearly 11,000 votes in 2016 and lost it to Biden by more than 150,000 votes in his 2020 reelection bid. Trump has since has maintained a strangled hold on the state’s Republican Party as it has descended into a political maelstrom of warring factions.

Dennis Darnoi, a veteran Republican strategist in Michigan, also rejected the idea that Democrats and left-wing independents could help Haley when they have their own competitive race. Liberal groups have been calling for a protest vote against President Biden over his response to the war between Israel and Hamas. The president’s Democratic supporters have been responding.

Mr. Darnoi recalled that the Haley campaign initially appeared to be sending a lot of text messages to potential voters in the state, but noted that communication had slowed and become intermittent. His running game has been “pretty non-existent,” he said.

“The Michigan primary voter is very supportive of Donald Trump. “They are very excited to vote for him,” Darnoi said, adding that there didn’t seem to be a path for anyone else.

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