Nikki Haley Takes on Trump, Biden at Troy Rally

On February 25, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley took aim at President Joe Biden (D) and former President Donald Trump (R) at a rally in Troy, Michigan. Haley stressed fiscal responsibility, national security, and electability.

The governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017, Haley highlighted her record as a chief executive. During her tenure in office, South Carolina’s unemployment rate fell from 11 percent to 4 percent, and she approved a law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. She also signed what she called “the toughest illegal immigration law in the country. President Obama sued us over it, and we won.”

Earlier this month, a poll Haley referenced at the rally showed her leading Biden in a general-election matchup 59 percent to 41 percent. But she is running far behind Trump in the Republican primary. She lost her home state’s February 24 contest by a projected 20.3 percentage points, and she is forecast to lose the Michigan primary on Tuesday by an even greater margin. The support she has earned is due in part to Democrats who have crossed over and voted in the Republican primary.

On spending, Haley criticized Democrats and Republicans. She noted that since Trump took office, in 2017, the national debt has increased from $20 trillion to $34 trillion. “We’re having to borrow money just to make our interest payments,” she said, and she warned that American adversaries including Russia, China, and Iran are noticing that yearly interest payments have exceeded the defense budget. “Our Republicans did that to us” when they supported stimulus programs during the early stages of the pandemic, Haley added.

“Let’s go after the hundreds of billions of dollars of COVID fraud,” Haley advised, also pledging to “veto any spending bill that doesn’t take us back to pre-COVID levels.”

Haley proposed lowering taxes on the middle class, eliminating federal gasoline and diesel taxes, and making permanent tax cuts on small businesses that are set to expire next year under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

On illegal immigration, Haley promised a tougher stance than Biden’s. She vowed to “defund sanctuary cities once and for all” and hire 25,000 US Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers “and let them do their job.” The government’s “catch-and-release” policy toward immigrants in the country unlawfully would become “catch-and-deport.”

But Haley also called out Trump, who appointed her ambassador to the United Nations, even more sharply on national security: “Look at what Donald Trump said in South Carolina: He said he would actually encourage Putin to invade our allies.”

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Still, Haley maintained that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Israel–Hamas war, and provocations from North Korea, China, and Russia would not have happened without the United States’ “debacle” of a withdrawal from Afghanistan, under Biden.

Haley also gave attention to improving care at the Veterans Health Administration, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Citing long wait times and veterans’ high suicide rates, Haley said, “I think every member of Congress should get their health care from the VA.”

Beyond policy, Haley told the crowd she had the right temperament and the acumen to be president. Differentiating herself from Trump and Biden, she said she would “not resort to name-calling or offending half the American electorate.” She also proposed mental-competency tests for candidates older than 75 — Biden is 81 and Trump 77 — and term limits for members of Congress.

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Haley closed by remarking on the killing of Walter Scott by “a dirty cop” and the shooting that killed nine parishioners at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, both of which happened in South Carolina during her governorship:

“We didn’t have riots: We had vigils. We didn’t have protests: We had prayer. The tone at the top matters.”

Editor’s note: This is the third campaign event of the 2024 election season that the Michigan Review has attended as press. The Michigan Review previously covered independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s rally in Grand Rapids and Republican former President Donald Trump’s rally in Waterford Township.

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About Alex Stamell

Alex Stamell is editor in chief emeritus of the Michigan Review.