Nikki Haley, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, is poised to become the first Republican to challenge Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential race.
The 51-year-old plans to declare her White House bid in her home state of South Carolina on Feb 15, according to her campaign aides, and is expected to release details about her declaration in an invitation to supporters in the coming days.
A host of other Republican rivals are expected to mount bids in the months ahead, including Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida.
“I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it,” she said in 2021.
The former governor has since walked back those comments, calling for a new generation of leadership.
She told Fox News last month: “So do I think I could be that leader? Yes, but we are still working through things and we’ll figure it out.”
She added: “I’ve never lost a race. I said that then. I still say that now. I’m not going to lose now.”
As Mr Trump kicked off his own 2024 campaign trail appearances over the weekend, he told reporters that he had discussed Mrs Haley’s bid with her.
“She called me and said she’d like to consider it,” he said. “And I said you should do it.”
Trump still the favourite among crowded field
A crowded candidate field favours Mr Trump in the Republican primary, which is essentially a winner-take-all system.
He remains the frontrunner in a number of polls, although some surveys show Mr DeSantis holding a narrow lead.
If she were to win the nomination, Mrs Haley, the daughter of two Indian immigrants, would be the first woman at the top of the Republican ticket in history, as well as the party’s first non-white nominee.
She is a long-time foreign policy hawk, serving Mr Trump as his administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, and is a staunch defender of Israel.
Among her major challenges will be her approach to the former president and his disproven claim of a fraudulent 2020 election. The argument has traction with a significant portion of the Republican base.
Mrs Haley comes into the race as an underdog, with most national polls showing her support in the single digits.
However, her strong support base in South Carolina offers some strategic advantages. The state is the third to host the Republican nominating contest and often plays an outsized role in the race.
Meanwhile, Republican senators have rallied to defend Mr Trump’s most likely rival, Mr DeSantis, from the former president’s attacks.
Mr Trump has suggested Mr DeSantis would be guilty of great “disloyalty” if he entered the 2024 race.
However, in a sign that the former president’s grip on his party is waning, some GOP senators have sprung to the Florida governor’s defence.
John Cornyn, a Texas senator, said of a potential DeSantis bid: “It looks to me like he’s polling well. I think we need some new blood and I think he’d probably qualify.”
Mr DeSantis also appeared to hit back at Mr Trump, contrasting his own decisive re-election in November to Mr Trump’s failed 2020 bid.
“I’m happy to say – you know in my case – not only did we win re-election, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has had in the history of the state of Florida,” he said.
“That verdict has been rendered by the people of the state of Florida.”
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