Donald Trump’s frustration with the former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has continued to mount, according to people close to the former president, with her refusal to withdraw from the race for the 2024 Republican nomination starting to cause operational headaches for his campaign.
Trump was annoyed with Haley the night of his New Hampshire primary win last week after she finished in second place and still delivered a speech that he viewed as her taking a victory lap.
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But Trump’s personal frustration has turned darker with the reality that Haley’s persistence means he will have to campaign more aggressively for the South Carolina primary, diverting resources away from preparing for a general election against Joe Biden, the people said.
The animosity towards Haley could precipitate an uglier fight in the weeks ahead as Trump becomes more determined to see her exit, talking about her in more vitriolic terms while attempting to dominate the next early voting states to secure the nomination as quickly as possible.
On primary night in New Hampshire, Trump appeared to be in genuine disbelief that Haley decided not to withdraw and instead spun her defeat – slightly closer than predicted in the polls, but nonetheless overwhelming – in her speech that night as an unexpected win.
The move caught Trump off guard because he thought Haley would fold, similar to the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who dropped out and endorsed him after his second-place finish in Iowa the week before, the people said. Trump took Haley’s effervescent defiance personally.
“I said, ‘Wow, she’s doing like a speech, like she won,’” Trump complained in his speech after the New Hampshire results were released. “Who the hell was the impostor that went up on the stage before and, like, claimed a victory? She did very poorly, actually.”
The frustration has grown more acute as the Trump campaign gears up for the next several contests before Super Tuesday, when 15 states are scheduled to hold Republican primaries or caucuses, at which point he hopes to have secured enough delegates to be the nominee, the people said.
In recent days, it has become clear to Trump that he may need to take multiple trips to South Carolina to battle the Haley campaign, which he appears to view as a waste of time given that internal and public polling shows almost no path for Haley to beat out Trump.
The more time and resources Trump has to spend fighting Haley, his team has suggested, the more they cannot focus on pivoting to the general election to target Biden and respond to his political attacks.
Haley has described herself as “scrappy” and continues to hold rallies during which her denunciations of Trump have become increasingly hostile. And, last Wednesday, Haley launched a $4m advertising campaign in South Carolina calling a Biden v Trump election as “a rematch no one wants”.
The narrator in the TV ad says: “Biden – too old. Trump – too much chaos. There’s a better choice for a better America.”
A Trump spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
Broadly, Trump also views Haley as one more thing he should not have to deal with but is forced to as long as she remains in the race, the people said. Trump has multiple priorities pulling him in different directions these days, most notably his legal problems.
Even with the second defamation case brought against him by E Jean Carroll now concluded, Trump has spent increasing amounts of time focused on the multiple criminal cases he is facing. Trump had hoped a big win in New Hampshire meant Haley could be one less issue to deal with.
Underscoring Trump’s irritation with the Haley situation is what he sees as a betrayal from Haley, the people said. In at least one recent conversation with allies, Trump slammed her for not withdrawing, using an epithet pejorative to women while describing her perceived disloyalty.