Presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks to supporters in a Bloomington, Minn., hotel ballroom Monday, Feb. 26. (Shane Hachey/Alpha News)

Nikki Haley visited Bloomington, Minn., Monday to make her case to Republican voters and convince them that they should vote for her in Minnesota’s upcoming Republican presidential primary, two days after losing the primary in her home state of South Carolina to former President Donald Trump by just over 20 percentage points.

After her loss, Haley vowed to fight on, and is embarking on a whirlwind tour of Super Tuesday states, which includes Minnesota.

Alpha News spoke to several attendees before the event about why they support Haley in the Republican primary, and what issues concern them most.

May, a 23 year-old Muslim woman from Minnesota, said, “I’m here for Nikki because she takes a more strict stance on abortion, and Biden right now is … out of control. He’s supporting policies that go against my religion, and I feel that many people in this country were so turned off by Trump, they don’t see that there are Republican candidates out there who support my views.”

“When you talk to Muslims, many of them actually are Republican, but they’re scared to say something,” largely because, in her view, “Gen Z tries to … associate [Republicans] with Trump.”

William, a Florida native in his 20s who’s been in Minnesota for 12 years and considers himself a moderate who has not yet voted for a Republican, said he likes Haley because she “seems to be somebody that’s more akin to a statesperson or statesman, and foreign policy is probably the most important thing for me.”

He said his mom is a Chinese immigrant who was involved in the Tiananmen Square protests, and he has friends in Ukraine who he recently visited. “So the person that I’m voting for is going to be able to create the most positive effects on those foreign policy issues,” he said.

Once the event got underway, the first portion of Haley’s speech was marked by multiple interruptions from protesters who yelled slogans, questions, and accusations at her in an effort to disrupt her speech. Security acted quickly in each case to remove them, but there were multiple instances where she had to pause her speech while security removed one or more protesters.

Alpha News spoke to one of the protesters before the event, who identified himself as an undecided voter. Jeremy, 24, told Alpha News that he wasn’t involved in politics until the last few years. When asked what inspired him to get involved, he said, “January 6th.” To him, it was “people actually doing something, actually exercising [their rights].” He said that “it made me want to get more aware about things, and figure out [what’s really going on].” He said the issues he’s concerned about in this election are “taxes, inflation, and gun rights.”

Roughly 10 minutes into Haley’s speech, Jeremy was part of a group of protesters shouting and interrupting her speech, and had to be forcibly removed by security along with the others.

Nikki Haley visited Bloomington, Minn., Monday to make her case to Republican voters. (Shane Hachey/Alpha News)

Haley took the disruptions in stride and did not seem phased. “You know, there could be more. But don’t get upset when you hear a protester. My husband and every other member of the military sacrifice every day for [their] right to protest,” she said.

‘Accountant in the White House’

A key theme of her speech was fiscal responsibility and her concern that the United States is on an unstable and dangerous fiscal trajectory. After noting that, “for the first time, we are paying more in interest payments than we are [spending on] our defense budget,” she said, “I would love to tell you that Joe Biden did that to us, but … Donald Trump and the Republicans did it to us too.”

She then repeated a slogan that was also used by the presenter who introduced her to the audience: “Don’t you think it’s time we put an accountant in the White House?”

She listed several economic policies she would enact as president, including vetoing any spending bill that doesn’t take the U.S. back to pre-Covid levels, cutting taxes for the middle class, simplifying the tax code, and moving federal programs down to the state level. She also promised to make small business tax cuts permanent.

“Small businesses are the heartbeat of our economy, and we need to start acting like it,” she said.

Border security was also an important part of her pitch to voters.

“As governor, I passed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country. We need to make sure every business hires people who are in this country legally … and defund sanctuary cities once and for all,” she said.

Turning to foreign policy, she reflected that the “world is literally on fire,” referring to both the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel against Hamas. In her view, “Everything that we’re seeing right now [is the result of] the debacle in Afghanistan,” because it showed America’s enemies that we are weak and lack resolve on the world stage, according to Haley.

“Think about what that said to our friends. More importantly, think about what that said to our enemies. This is a time where we need a leader with moral clarity,” she commented.

She contrasted herself sharply with Trump. Referencing recent comments he made regarding Russia and NATO, she said, “Donald Trump’s gonna side with a madman … who’s made no bones about the fact that he wants to destroy America. In that moment, he made our allies more vulnerable, he emboldened Putin, and he put our servicemembers at risk. All because he went off his teleprompter.”

Former President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the 2023 Turning Point Action Conference at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

“I have watched Trump over and over get weak in the knees when it comes to Putin,” she continued. Explaining what her approach to foreign policy would be, she said, “This is about preventing war. That’s what a leader does. You’re always supposed to prevent war.”

Addressing her recent loss in South Carolina and Trump’s current sweep of the primaries, she said, “The biggest issue is, we need a candidate who can win a general election,” arguing that Trump has alienated Republican primary voters as well as the general electorate. “Instead of bringing people in, he’s pushing people out.”

Haley argued that Trump’s legal battles and personal vendettas are a distraction that should make Republican voters leery of supporting him. “He spent $60 million of campaign contributions on his own personal court cases. If you look at what he said in New Hampshire about revenge, or if you look at these court cases [where he’s] talking about being a victim … at no point is he talking about the American people.”

She said the primary battle between her and Trump isn’t personal. “This is about that fact that chaos follows him, in everything he does. And we can’t have a country in disarray and a world on fire, and go through four more years of chaos. We won’t survive.”

She also argued that although Biden’s age and acuity have become issues in the election, Trump’s age is a factor that works against him as well. “We can do better than two 80 year-old candidates for president. I have long said that whoever gets rid of their 80-year-old candidate is the party that will win.” (Trump is 77; Biden is 81.)

Addressing her reasons for running, she explained that “it’s not to be vice president,” and advised voters not to “complain about what happens in a general election if you don’t vote in this primary. It matters.” She said that she’s running because the current social and political environment in America is not normal. Presidents and former presidents like Biden and Trump are referring to political opponents as “fascists” and “vermin,” she said.

That’s not normal, and “our kids deserve to know what normal feels like,” Haley continued.

She encouraged voters to “go out and vote, and take five people with you. I need you to tell all your friends and family to get out and vote.” She also asked her supporters to give their fellow primary voters a message from her: “In a general election, you’re given a choice. In a primary election, you make your choice. This is our chance to make our choice. And if we can do this: can you imagine what kind of country we would have?”

Haley appears in Virginia today and North Carolina tomorrow to continue her challenge to Trump in the lead-up to Super Tuesday on March 5.


Shane Hachey

Shane Hachey is a journalist and blogger based in the Twin Cities. He covers national politics, race, and local issues. Prior to that, he studied history at Columbia and law at Harvard Law School, and he was an Army Military Policeman for five years stationed in Germany, Yugoslavia, and Fort Hood, Texas.

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