Jan 21, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump-Haley brawl in New Hampshire gets personal

Former President Trump is shown in silhouette in front of a U.S. flag.

Former President Trump arrives at a campaign event in Manchester, N.H., on Saturday. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New Hampshire's GOP presidential primary is taking a nasty turn in the final hours before Tuesday's voting.

  • Former President Trump is accusing Nikki Haley of not being "smart enough" to be president, and once again tapping into race-based attacks — while Haley, 52, says Trump, 77, may be in mental "decline," and incapable of being president into his 80s.

Why it matters: The tension in New Hampshire reflects the enormous stakes in Tuesday's primary.

  • Trump is trying to finish off Haley and virtually seal the Republican nomination, while Haley is looking for a springboard to stop him with her home state of South Carolina up next month.

Driving the news: After Trump repeatedly mixed up Haley and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a rally late Friday as he defended his actions on Jan. 6, Haley and her team spent much of Saturday suggesting the former president isn't mentally able to be president another four years.

  • "When you're dealing with the pressures of a presidency, we can't have someone else that we question whether they're mentally fit to do this," Haley said.
  • Pointing to a Trump remark from a few months ago, Haley noted that Trump "said he was running against Obama — he never ran against Obama!"

Trump, meanwhile, was telling voters that Haley — his former UN ambassador — is "not tough enough, not smart enough, or capable enough" to be president and said that he'd "probably" not pick her to be vice president.

  • He's also returned to race-based attacks in recent days, falsely suggesting Haley is ineligible to be president because of her Indian immigrant parents.
  • Trump repeatedly has called Haley by versions of her given first name, Nimarata, even though Haley has gone by her middle name, Nikki, for most of her life.
  • At his rally in Manchester late Saturday, Trump — who has noted Haley's ties to wealthy donors — also had a backdrop that read: "Nikki Haley is Loved by Democrats, Wall Street & Globalists."

Between the lines: Trump is effectively trying to end the GOP primary this next week with a dominant victory in New Hampshire after winning the Iowa caucuses by 30 points.

  • Haley, who initially appeared shellshocked by her disappointing third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, has bounced back in the last two days with a robust schedule and more pointed attacks on Trump.
  • Haley hasn't engaged with Trump over his race-baiting comments — preferring to talk about his age and dramatics.

"There's always a lot of chaos," with Trump, Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney said at a Bloomberg News event Saturday, adding that voters care more about "how much groceries cost, how much gas costs, what their kids are learning in school, how they can make ends meet."

Zoom in: Trump brought several South Carolina lawmakers to New Hampshire this weekend to try to show he's more popular in Haley's home state than she is.

  • That included Sen. Tim Scott, who Haley appointed to his seat and whose endorsement she had sought, as Axios previously reported.
  • Haley said she was unbothered by Scott's snub, telling Fox News on Saturday: "He made this decision, that's his to live with...I was never anything but good to him."

Zoom out: Haley's team has indicated they will go on to the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24, regardless of the outcome in New Hampshire.

  • Ankney said the campaign was making a $4 million digital, radio and TV ad buy in South Carolina starting next week, and that Haley would be campaigning there Wednesday.
  • When pressed, Ankney did not guarantee that Haley would be in the race by the Feb. 24 primary. But "we'll see you in South Carolina on Wednesday," she said.
  • "We need a warm weather primary."
Go deeper