Haley says ‘closing the gap’ with Trump in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary is her goal

Nikki Haley says she doesn’t need to win in her home state of South Carolina later this month to keep her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination alive.

“Success means being competitive. Closing the gap. Making sure we can continue to go forward as we go into Super Tuesday,” Haley emphasized in a Fox News Digital interview. 

The former two-term South Carolina governor who later served as U.N. ambassador in former President Donald Trump’s administration faces a steep uphill climb for the GOP nomination against Trump, who’s the commanding front-runner in the Republican race as he makes his third straight run for the White House.

WHERE TRUMP AND HALEY STAND IN THE LATEST POLL IN A KEY REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY STATE

Trump after New Hampshire win

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party in Nashua, N.H., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024.  (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Trump won last month’s Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary – the first two contests in the GOP presidential nominating calendar – by double digits.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended his campaign two days before the New Hampshire primary, leaving Trump and Haley as the last two major candidates in a field that stood at nearly 15 contenders last August.

2024 SHOWDOWN: HALEY TARGETS BIDEN AND TRUMP AS ‘GRUMPY OLD MEN’

The next major contest in the Republican schedule is Haley’s home state, which holds its GOP primary on Feb. 24. The latest public opinion survey indicates the former president with a formidable 26-point lead over Haley.

But Haley, speaking with Fox News Digital on Thursday after a campaign event at a popular eatery in the Palmetto State’s capital city, reiterated her goalposts.

Nikki Haley campaigns in her home state of South Carolina

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor who later served as ambassador to the United Nations, speaks with voters following a campaign event in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 1, 2024 (Fox News – Paul Steinhauser)

“It’s just about keeping that momentum going. We got 20% in Iowa. We got 43% in New Hampshire. Let’s bring it a little bit closer so that we can get closer in to him [Trump] and make it more competitive going into Super Tuesday,” she emphasized.

Fifteen states will hold GOP presidential nominating contests on Super Tuesday, which this year will take place on March 5. Thirty-six percent of all Republican presidential delegates will be up for grabs in those primaries and caucuses.

Since her 11-point loss to Trump on Jan. 23 in New Hampshire, Haley has faced calls to drop out, so Trump can start focusing on defeating President Biden in November’s general election.

But at her campaign event in Columbia and a later stop Thursday in Hilton Head, South Carolina, as well as in a scrum with political reporters, Haley emphasized that “we’re not going anywhere.”

Haley campaigns in South Carolina

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley attends a campaign event at Forrest Fire BBQ restaurant in Hilton Head, South Carolina, U.S. February 1, 2024.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

“This is about just closing that gap,” she added “We have a country to save, and I am determined to keep on going the entire way as long as we can keep closing that gap.”

Trump enjoys the backing of many of South Carolina’s top Republican elected officials, including Gov. Henry McMaster and Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, who in November ended his own White House bid.

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But Haley discounted the former president’s political endorsements in South Carolina and around the nation, telling the crowd in Hilton Head that Trump “has surrounded himself with the political elite. You see all those congressional members around him, the same ones that haven’t done anything for us.”

Haley also took aim at Trump after federal election filings showed that Trump’s political committees spent roughly $29 million in legal consulting and legal fees in the second half of 2023.

Trump made history last year as the first former or current president to be indicted for a crime, but his four indictments, including charges he tried to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss, have only fueled his support among Republican voters.

“His court cases have just started,” Haley emphasized at her event in Columbia, South Carolina. “Do you really think he’s going to win against Joe Biden when he’s spending all of that money on legal fees? He’s not.”

Fox News’ James Levinson contributed to this report

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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