SIOUX CENTER — Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Thursday she will run for president in 2024 “if there’s a place for me,” but she sidestepped a question about whether the ongoing hearings into former President Donald Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots will influence her decision.
Haley was an early critic of Trump’s leadership on Jan. 6, saying in early 2021 that “we need to acknowledge he let us down.” But, more recently, she has embraced Trump’s place within the party — a shift that highlights the difficult road Republicans must navigate as they consider seeking the White House under Trump’s shadow.
Trump has not yet said whether he will run again in 2024, though he has repeatedly teased the possibility. As he waits, a flurry of would-be contenders has begun making the prerequisite trips to Iowa to lay the groundwork for a potential run.
Haley, who is a former governor of South Carolina, arrived in deeply conservative northwest Iowa Thursday to speak at a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra. Asked by reporters whether her decision to run would be swayed by the congressional hearings into the Jan. 6 attacks, which this week included shocking testimony from a former White House aide, Haley demurred.
“What I’ve always said is, I love this country,” she said, echoing past statements. “I had the pleasure of serving the state that raised me and defending the country I love so much. And if it looks like there’s a place for me next year, I’ve never lost a race. I’m not going to start now. I’ll put 1,000% in and I’ll finish it. If there’s not a place for me, I will fight for this country until my last breath.”
Trump’s hold on Iowans was visible during a large rally he hosted at the Iowa State Fairgrounds last October. Still, Iowa Republicans say they want to hear from alternatives. Former Vice President Mike Pence got a warm reception in Carroll earlier this year, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott drew praise in Cedar Rapids this month.
Haley spoke at the Dean Classic Car Museum in Sioux Center surrounded by gleaming chrome fenders and flashing neon signs for Shell gasoline and Goodyear tires.
In her 20-minute speech before an audience of about 350, Haley called for a renewal of American patriotism.
“This national self-loathing that’s happening across the country is killing us,” she said. “The idea that they’re saying America is a bad country, that the people are oppressed, that America is a racist country — if America was a racist country, I would not have been elected the first female minority governor in the country.”
The child of Indian immigrants parents criticized schools as teaching critical race theory and praised Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which restricts classroom discussion about LGBTQ people.
“Are you kidding me? That doesn’t go far enough,” she said. “We don’t need to confuse our kids in elementary school.”
Haley repeatedly praised Feenstra, who is widely expected to win re-election in the heavily Republican 4th Congressional District in 2022, saying he’s, “pro-life pro-Second Amendment, pro-farmer and pro-freedom.” Haley also called Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds “the best governor in the country.”
As she did when she visited Iowa in 2021, Haley attended fundraisers and events for Republicans across the state.
She spoke at events for the Republican Party of Iowa and for U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks on Wednesday. And she planned to speak at a private fundraiser for Reynolds later Thursday and at an event with 3rd District congressional candidate Zach Nunn on Friday.
At the Republican Party of Iowa event, Haley praised Iowa’s elected Republican women, saying “you grow women tough here in Iowa.”
“Whatever is in the water, keep drinking it,” she said. “Let your daughters drink it, because life is good here in Iowa.”
During that event, Haley participated in a question-and-answer session with state party chair Jeff Kaufmann. He asked her about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and, with it, a constitutionally recognized right to abortion.
Haley said she opposes abortion because her husband was adopted and she personally knows how difficult it can be for the many parents who want to have children but cannot. The decision was the right one, she said, “because we don’t want unelected justices deciding the lives of Americans.”
“While we have this great victory for life, the real work begins,” she said. “Because now we need to focus on the fact that every person, regardless of wealth, gender, whatever, should be able to get contraception and every person needs to know what education is there,” she said.
Brad and Sheryl Jones, Okoboji residents who drove the hour and a half to Sioux Center to see Haley, said she is at the top of the list of potential presidential candidates they’d like to see run in 2024.
“I just think she’s wonderful,” said Brad Jones. “I’d absolutely love to see her run for president.”
Both said they hope Trump will sit the race out, saying the events of Jan. 6 solidified their opposition to the former president.
“We’re good Republicans, but no,” Sheryl Jones said of a possible Trump candidacy. “Emphatic no.”
Charlie Zylstra, a Pella resident, said she thinks Haley is poised and has the perfect resume to run for president with her experience as a governor and ambassador.
“She’s a lot like Gov. Reynolds,” Zylstra said. “She just really connects.”
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Nikki Haley says during Iowa visit she is considering presidential run
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