Conway, South Carolina –
With two weeks until the South Carolina Republican primary, Nikki Haley is trying to challenge Donald Trump on his own turf as the former president attempts to overturn his last major rival’s narrow path to the nomination.
Trump, focusing his campaign on the southern state days after an easy victory in Nevada, is expected to rally his supporters at a rally Saturday afternoon in Conway, near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
In his speech at the rally, Trump insulted Haley by using his derisive nickname for her, “Birdbrain,” and lavished praise on South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who backed him from the start. Trump claimed that he selected Haley to be his ambassador to the United Nations in 2017 and represent the United States on the world stage only because he was motivated to appoint McMaster, his second-in-command, as governor of North Carolina. South.
“She did a job. She was ok. She was ok. But I didn’t put it here because she wanted it there at the United Nations,” she said. “I wanted to take her lieutenant governor, who is right here, and make him governor.”
“He wanted it because he felt like he deserved it,” Trump added.
Trump, who has long been the favorite in the GOP presidential race, has won three states in a row and is looking to take advantage of the February 24 primary in South Carolina to close Haley’s chances and focus fully on a long-awaited rematch with the Democratic president. Joe Biden in the general election.
Haley skipped the Nevada caucuses, condemning the race as rigged for Trump, and instead focused on South Carolina, launching a two-week bus tour across the state where she served as governor from 2011 to 2017.
Speaking to about two hundred people gathered outside a historic opera house in Newberry, Haley on Saturday portrayed Trump as an erratic, self-absorbed figure who is not focused on the American people.
He pointed to the way he exerted his influence on the Republican Party last week, successfully lobbying Republican lawmakers in Washington to reject a bipartisan border security deal and publicly pressuring Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel to consider quit your job.
“What’s happening?” Haley said. “That day of all those losses, she had her fingerprints all over her,” she added.
Haley repeated her questions about Trump’s mental fitness, an attack that has escalated since a Jan. 19 speech in which he repeatedly confused her with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Haley, 52, has throughout her campaign called for mental competency tests for politicians, a way to contrast with Trump, 77, and Biden, 81.
“Why do we have to run an 80-year-old for office?” she asked. “Why can’t they give up their power?”
One person in the crowd shouted, “Because they’re grumpy old men!”
“They’re grumpy old men,” Haley said.
Haley continued the argument when she spoke to reporters afterward, citing a report released Thursday by the special counsel investigating Biden’s possession of classified documents. The report described Biden’s memory as “poor.”
“Americans can do better than two 80-year-olds for president,” Haley said.
Bob Pollard, a retired firefighter, said he can’t support Trump because “he’s a maniac,” adding that Trump’s campaign, in which he frequently talks about “retaliation” and his personal grievances, has “become a personal vendetta.”
Harlie O’Connell, a longtime South Carolina resident who supports Haley, said she plans to support the eventual Republican nominee, but prefers it to be someone younger.
“It’s time for some fresh blood,” O’Connell said.
Her husband, Mike O’Connell, contrasted the candidates’ foreign policy approach and said he wants the United States to continue helping Ukraine in its war with Russia, as Haley has promised.
“We need to encourage friendships and not discourage them,” he said of international relations.
Trump, in his comments and a social media post on Saturday, criticized foreign aid in general and a plan in Congress to provide nearly $100 billion in aid to Ukraine and Israel. He also reiterated his praise for foreign strongmen, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin “very smart, very clever,” Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán “one of the toughest guys” and Chinese President Xi Jinping, smart because “he controls 1.4 billion people with an iron fist.”
In Conway, people began lining up to see Trump hours before the doors opened to the stadium where he would take the stage later.
Organizers, expecting a packed crowd, set up screens outside where an overflow crowd could watch Trump’s appearance.
The city lies along the Grand Strand, a wide stretch of South Carolina’s northern coast that is home to Myrtle Beach and Horry County, one of the most conservative places in the state and a core area of the party’s support base. Trump in the state in his past campaigns.
Tim Carter, of nearby Murrells Inlet, said he had backed Trump since 2016 and would do so again this year.
“We are here to defend Trump, improve our economy, close our border and create more jobs for our people,” said Carter, a pastor and military veteran who runs an addiction recovery ministry.
Cheryl Savage of Conway, who was waiting in the stands to hear Trump, said the former president is “here for us.” Savage said she endorsed Haley during her first run for governor in 2010, but now she feels she is doing herself a disservice by staying in the race.
“He deserves a second term,” Savage said of Trump. “He did a fantastic job for four years.”
Price reported from New York and Pollard reported from Newberry, South Carolina.