Trump and Biden shift focus to general election rematch as Haley fights on

Biden's campaign statement says it is ‘now clear that Trump will be the Republican nominee’, repeating warnings that the former president is a threat to democracy

Nathan LayneGram Slattery and James OliphantReuters
Published : 25 Jan 2024, 05:19 AM
Updated : 25 Jan 2024, 05:19 AM

Donald Trump and Joe Biden attacked each other on Wednesday as they prepared for a likely election rematch in November after Trump's win in New Hampshire's Republican presidential primary made his White House nomination increasingly likely, although his last remaining rival Nikki Haley vowed to stay in the race.

Former Republican President Trump's back-to-back wins in nominating contests put him on an almost certain path toward a general election contest with Democratic President Biden. Both turned their fire on each other after Trump's New Hampshire victory over Haley on Tuesday night.

Biden's reelection campaign issued a statement saying it is “now clear that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee,” and repeated warnings that the former president is a threat to democracy.

Trump took to his social media platform Truth Social to repeat unfounded allegations that Biden and his Justice Department were engaged in political persecution, following the multiple criminal indictments of Trump last year.

But Haley, who served as Trump's UN ambassador and is now his sole opponent for the Republican nomination, pledged to take that race to South Carolina, which votes on Feb 24, and beyond.

In a speech to supporters in South Carolina on Wednesday night, Haley said US voters deserved a better option than a Biden-Trump rematch, "and we're going to give it to them."

She also repeated her challenge to Trump to debate her. "Bring it Donald, show me what you got!" she declared to cheers.

The Republican nominating race has months to go, but Trump is seeking to knock Haley out and become the presumptive nominee quickly.

After Haley spoke, Trump warned her donors to stop funding her campaign. On Truth Social, he said anybody making a contribution to Haley would be "permanently barred" from his political orbit.

In South Carolina, Trump, 77, will be looking to embarrass Haley, 52, by defeating her in her home state. Haley is aiming for an upset delivered by voters who twice elected her as governor.

Haley has three rallies scheduled in South Carolina in the coming days, and her campaign released two new ads as part of a $4 million ad buy in the state.

One attacks Biden, 81, as "too old" and Trump as "too much chaos," and calls a reprisal of the 2020 election a "rematch no one wants." The other says she delivered "thousands of jobs, lower taxes, tough immigration laws" as governor from 2011 to 2017.

Republicans have largely coalesced around Trump, however, putting pressure on Haley to drop out. Trump has racked up endorsements from most of South Carolina's leading Republican figures. Opinion polls show him with a wide lead there.

HARD PRESS

Over the last several weeks, South Carolina US Representative Joe Wilson, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and South Carolina Speaker of the House Burrell Smith have been calling state legislators and other local officials to push them to endorse Trump, according to two people with knowledge of the calls.

Trump senior adviser Jason Miller touted a new website focused on attacking Haley, which criticises her for her plan to scale back Social Security entitlements to keep the program solvent and for proposing a gasoline tax hike when she was governor.

Ford O'Connell, a Republican consultant based in Florida and a former Trump surrogate, said he expected the Trump campaign to pull out all the stops now against Haley.

"The plan in South Carolina is to embarrass Nikki Haley. The key is to make sure that the donors don’t fund her any further," O'Connell said.

Joel Tenney, a Christian evangelist who was part of Trump's faith coalition in Iowa, said he planned to travel to South Carolina next week as a volunteer to help target the state's large base of evangelical voters.

Trump has remained popular with that voting bloc, winning a majority of white evangelicals as part of his commanding victory in Iowa earlier this month.

Haley has said she has a better chance of beating Biden than Trump, who faces multiple criminal charges, including for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Biden, who won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire after voters wrote his name on the ballot, was endorsed by the United Auto Workers on Wednesday.

"Instead of talking trash about our union, Joe Biden stood with us," UAW President Shawn Fain said in a fiery speech that referred to Trump as a "scab."

Trump is the first Republican to sweep competitive votes in both Iowa and New Hampshire since 1976, when the two states cemented their status as the first nominating contests.

Tuesday's vote was the first one-on-one matchup between Trump and Haley, after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, once seen as Trump's most formidable challenger, dropped out on Sunday and endorsed the former president.

Haley, who placed third in Iowa and lost to Trump by 11 percentage points in New Hampshire, refused to bow out.

"This race is far from over," Haley told supporters at a post-election party in Concord, challenging Trump to debate her.

At his own party in Nashua, Trump opened his speech by mocking Haley, calling her an "imposter" and saying: "She's doing, like, a speech like she won. She didn't win. She lost. She had a very bad night."