Photo: Jim Watson Agence France-Presse “Head-to-head, Trump does not beat Biden. I beat Biden,” Nikki Haley said Thursday to her supporters gathered in a restaurant in Columbia, South Carolina.
Danny Kemp – Agence France-Presse to Columbia
- United States
Nikki Haley, Donald Trump's only rival on the right, is striving to convince that it is she who must wear the Republican colors in the presidential election in November, even if the polls show her as the loser in the party primary in his own state of South Carolina.
“Head-to-head, Trump doesn’t beat Biden. I beat Biden,” the former UN ambassador said Thursday in a typical barbecue restaurant in the southern United States, not far from a buffet offering fried chicken and pulled pork.
The 52-year-old former South Carolina governor is now the only Republican vying for the party's nomination against her former leader, and she hopes her home state will see her triumph in the primary on February 24.
His speech targets moderate Republicans and undecided Democrats. Nikki Haley highlights the “chaos” of Donald Trump's first term and criticizes the advanced age of the two men who are each seeking a second term: the Republican tycoon is 77, Democratic President Joe Biden is 81. < /p>
The battle promises to be arduous. A poll from the Washington Postand Monmouth University, released Thursday, puts Donald Trump far ahead of her with 58% of the vote (32% for Nikki Haley).
His supporters gathered at Doc's Barbecue in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, still want to believe it, one summarizing the race as a choice between “a Republican and a fascist”.
“I really appreciate her values,” says Sarah Rock, who wears a badge on her shirt proclaiming “I Choose Nikki.” “She's not going to have any criminal problems and I think she's what our country needs,” she says, referring to the legal cases surrounding Donald Trump.
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Jody Lowman of Lexington, South Carolina, said she loved Nikki Haley's campaign speech. “Trump is going to take us straight into another world war, if Biden doesn’t do it first,” he blurted.
“No water for Nikki”
But the shadow of the ultra-favorite of the right is never far away. Outside the Nikki Haley rally, a pickup truck taunted supporters with pro-Trump flags.
Already, Donald Trump presents himself as the winner of the Republican race, on the strength of his victories in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries during which Ms. Haley had hoped to attract voters independent.
Unlike Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, she refused to give in and let Mr. Trump focus on his duel with Joe Biden. Tenacious, she brandishes a series of polls which show that she would have more chances than Donald Trump of beating the current president in a possible final.
Mr. Trump therefore finds himself obliged to continue fighting for South Carolina, at a time when he would prefer to devote his resources to the national campaign – and to his legal fees.
“I wouldn’t give Nikki water if she was thirsty,” proclaims Regina Sidik, a 56-year-old care worker, after a press conference by Trumpist Republicans Thursday on the steps of the local Capitol .
Wearing a “Team Trump” t-shirt, Ms. Sidik says she voted Democratic for 20 years but now wants to “make America great again,” as the ex-president says. Nikki Haley “did nothing for us,” she judges.
The former governor faced her share of controversies during the campaign, notably when she avoided saying that slavery was at the origin of the American Civil War. However, the issue matters in South Carolina, a state with a large black population that Democrats are courting.
Ms. Haley’s insistence on remaining in the race visibly angers Donald Trump. In an angry speech after his victory in New Hampshire, the latter surrounded himself with South Carolina leaders, including the current governor, and sharply criticized Nikki Haley for not having sworn allegiance to him.
He also regularly recalls the foreign origins of this daughter of Indian immigrants by using (and sometimes distorting) her first name. She was born Nimarata Nikki Randhawa and took her husband's name.
Nikki Haley says she has no “personal issues” with him, but says she will continue to fight in South Carolina and elsewhere as long as she can close the gap with her rival.