Nikki Haley Emerges as Palatable Republican Candidate Amidst Trump’s Dominance

Despite losing to Trump in New Hampshire, Haley's immigration stance and Indian heritage draw diverse support amidst concerns over Trump's legal troubles and Biden's foreign policy decisions.

An eruption of cheers emerged from the crowd when former governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley took to the podium last weekend during her campaign in New Hampshire, days before the Tuesday primary election. Despite losing to her Republican competitor, former President Donald Trump, Haley is serving as a “palatable” Republican candidate for the never-Trumpers, sick- of-Bideners and independent voters across the nation. 

Haley finished with about 43 percent of the vote compared to Trump’s roughly 54 percent in New Hampshire — an outcome closer than many of the polls were predicting in the final days before the state’s primary, but still a sizable loss.

During her meet and greet event in Keene, N.H, she emphasized her support for the military, vocational programs for high school students and keeping the “LGBTQ agenda” out of schools. But it was her staunch immigration policies that include “catching and deporting” migrants instead of “catching and releasing” that caught the attention of Matthew Lewis, a voter from Manchester, N.H.

“Immigration isn’t the problem,” said Lewis. “It’s the illegal immigration I can’t get behind. Just come here legally. I’ll be voting for Nikki because I know she means business, she’ll secure the border and ensure the safety of Americans in a way Trump can’t because he’s too busy dealing with court cases. That’s not the type of leader this country needs.” 

Haley plans on empowering immigration agents to conduct deportations. In May 2023, she told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that she would assign thousands of immigration agents to carry out deportations. Haley reiterated this in her campaign speech last Saturday in New Hampshire. 

“Instead of catch and release, let’s go to catch and deport,” said Haley. 

She said using E-Verify to prevent undocumented immigrants from getting jobs will “get them out of this country.” E-Verify is a federal program that checks employee documents that show legal authorization against federal databases to prove their authenticity. 

In a December 2023 debate, Haley said the 7 or 8 million undocumented immigrants who arrived under Biden “absolutely have to go back.”

Haley is a child of Indian immigrants and claimed in her New Hampshire campaign that they “immigrated here fifty years ago to achieve the American dream.” She was born in the United States, which makes her a “natural born citizen” under U.S. law, contrary to online posts saying she is ineligible because her immigrant parents were not yet naturalized by the time of her birth.

For University of Southern New Hampshire senior Aparna Patel, Haley’s Indian heritage makes her an interesting candidate. Although she doesn’t support many of Haley’s policies she is excited about the prospect of an Indian-American woman in office. 

“I’m not sure who I will be voting for, I’m not too happy with Joe Biden and his refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza,” said Patel. I feel like there aren’t any solid options. We’re stuck with Biden, Trump and Haley and part of me is enthusiastic about a woman of Indian descent in office. I mean it’s 2024 and we still haven’t had a female president.” 

Although Joe Biden is not the only Democrat running for office, his challengers Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) and lifestyle coach Marianne Williamson are projected to have long-shot chances at beating the incumbent president. 

Many Haley supporters that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and then again in 2020 are concerned with the former President’s capacity to lead the United States as he has been charged in four criminal cases. In Washington, D.C, he faces four felony counts for his efforts in overturning the 2020 election, in Georgia, he faces 13 felony counts for his election interference in that state, in New York, he faces 34 felony counts in connection with hush money payments to a porn star and in Florida, he faces 40 felony counts for hoarding classified documents after he left office and impeding the government’s efforts to retrieve them. 

“I voted for Trump in both elections,” said Laura Miller of Derry, N.H. “I firmly believed that he was what this nation needed. I really liked that he wasn’t a politician but the insurrection was it for me. I won’t be voting for Donald in the primaries and I would seriously have to reconsider if he makes it November. I mean with the court stuff and all I’m not sure what’s going to happen.” 

With Trump’s pending trials and Biden’s refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, Haley is gaining support from those who simply do not want to see either men in office.

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