Nikki Haley on Sunday downplayed Donald Trump’s lead in the polls — saying the American people are “tired” of the former president’s antics as she bashed his prospects of winning the 2024 election.
Trump, 77, the runaway GOP frontrunner, has been ahead of President Biden in a slew of recent polling, but Haley, his former US ambassador to the United Nations, suggested he’s a divisive figure and not the party’s strongest chance of winning.
“I think certainly Trump has some strong support. I’ve always said he was the right president at the right time and I agree with a lot of his policies,” she told “Fox News Sunday.”
“The problem is, drama and chaos follow him, whether fairly or not, it is constantly following him and Americans feel it.”
Many of Trump’s rivals in the Republican presidential primary have long made an electability argument against him — suggesting that he can’t shepherd the GOP to victory in 2024.
Yet a recent tranche of polling show him winning when pitted against Biden in the general election.
Haley, 51, who served as Trump’s ambassador to the UN from 2017 to 2018, underscored that polling has generally pegged her as performing even more strongly than Trump against the Democratic incumbent.
Nationally, Haley tops Biden by 2.7 percentage points, while Trump defeats him by 1.1 percentage points, in the latest RealClearPolitics aggregate.
Some state by state polling has pegged her with a stronger standing. For instance, a New York Times/Sienna College poll had her with a 9-point lead, while Trump had a 5-point lead.
“You [should] send someone in there that doesn’t just beat Biden by two or three points like Trump does. You get somebody that beats Biden between nine and 13 points,” Haley argued in the Fox News interview.
“I think people are getting tired of the drama and the chaos and the negativity.”
The former South Carolina governor has seen an uptick in the polls since the first GOP debate back in August.
Her campaign has tried to pitch itself as a more viable alternative to Trump than Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis is still No. 2 in the GOP nationally and in Iowa, the leadoff state, where his campaign has invested heavily, buoyed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ recent endorsement.
Haley’s campaign has pointed to polling showing her in second place in New Hampshire and South Carolina, which follow Iowa on the calendar.
Both contenders appear to be attempting to lock down second place, while hoping that Trump will ultimately falter. He has 91 criminal counts pending against him in four different cases, creating some uncertainty.
Haley and DeSantis, 45, squared off in Miami last Wednesday for the third GOP debate of the cycle, where foreign policy dominated.
After the debate, some fretted that aspirants were salivating about a war with Iran.
“It’s quite the contrary,” Haley shot back when asked about the issue on Sunday. “A strong America doesn’t start wars, a strong America prevents wars. What we’re trying to do is prevent further war and I dealt with Iran every day at the United Nations.”
She also weighed in on concerns about the dwindling military stockpile in the US military, in light of a recent New York Times piece about how American focus on Ukraine and Israel could embolden China to go after Taiwan.
“If we do this right in Ukraine and Israel, we won’t have to deal with China. China’s watching every bit of it. And they fear [an] America that stands by her friends,” Haley argued.
Trump is overwhelmingly ahead in the GOP primary, averaging 58.5%, followed by DeSantis at 14.4%, and Haley at 9%, per the latest RealClearPolitics aggregate of national polling.
The first contest is slated to take place on Jan. 15 in the Iowa caucuses.