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Nikki Haley announces run for president, challenging Trump

The former U.N. ambassador is set to return to Iowa, with a stop in Marion

Nikki Haley announces run for president, challenging Trump
Nikki Haley speaks Oct. 25, 2022, about issues Republicans want to tackle, including foreign wars and immigration, during a women-led Republican rally at World Class Industries in Cedar Rapids. Haley was traveling around Iowa with several elected Republican women to campaign. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, announced her candidacy for president Tuesday, becoming the first major challenger to former President Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination.

The announcement, delivered in a tweeted video, marks an about-face for the ex-Trump Cabinet official, who said two years ago that she wouldn't challenge her former boss in 2024. But she changed her mind in recent months, citing, among other things, the country's economic troubles and the need for "generational change," a nod to the 76-year-old Trump's age.

"You should know this about me. I don't put up with bullies. And when you kick back, it hurts them more if you're wearing heels," Haley said in her announcement. "I'm Nikki Haley, and I'm running for president."

Haley, 51, is the first in a long line of Republicans who are expected to launch 2024 campaigns in the coming months. Among them are Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Iowa Republicans still will hold their first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses in 2024, though national Democrats have voted to strip Iowa Democrats of the early perch. Already, several GOP contenders have been testing the waters in Iowa — including Haley, who campaigned with Iowa’s Republican congressional candidates last year.

Haley is set to return next week to Iowa, appearing Monday in Urbandale and Feb. 21 in Marion. In anticipation of the visit, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart branded Haley as extreme. "As governor of South Carolina, Haley endorsed a Republican plan to 'end Medicare as we know it,' signed a total abortion ban, pushed for tax giveaways for corporations and the super-wealthy, and refused to expand affordable health care access to hundreds of thousands of Americans," Hart said in a statement.

Pence, also a frequent visitors to Iowa, is set to appear Wednesday in Cedar Rapids.

President Joe Biden has said he intends to seek re-election in 2024, stalling any jostling for the Democratic nomination.

Haley has regularly boasted about her track record of defying political expectations, saying, "I've never lost an election, and I'm not going to start now." If elected, she would be the nation's first female president and the first U.S. president of Indian descent.

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The daughter of Indian immigrants, Haley grew up enduring racist taunts in a small South Carolina town and has long referenced that impact on her personal and political arc. In the video, Haley referenced that past, saying she grew up "not Black, not white — I was different."

Despite that, Haley insisted that America is not a racist country: "Nothing could be further from the truth," she said.

Haley never mentions Trump by name in the video. She leans into a call for "a new generation of leadership," which has become the refrain of her recent messaging.

There appears to be openness among Republicans to new leadership, according to a new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In an open-ended question asking Republicans to choose who they want to lead their party, a majority of Republicans didn't choose either Trump or DeSantis, considered the former president's top rival. But they also didn't have a clear alternative in mind.

Eleven other politicians, including Haley, are named by just 1 percent of Republicans as their preferred leader.

In a statement, Taylor Budowich, spokesman for Trump's super PAC, said Haley was "just another career politician."

"She started out as a Never Trumper before resigning to serve in the Trump admin," he said. "She then resigned early to go rake in money on corporate boards. Now, she's telling us she represents a `new generation.' Sure just looks like more of the same, a career politician whose only fulfilled commitment is to herself."