The former United Nations ambassador needs buy-in from her state’s pro-Trump Republican electorate.
HILTON HEAD, S.C.—Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley sounded defiant before a room of supporters in Hilton Head on Feb. 1.
Former President Donald Trump had secured the endorsement of many top Republican politicians in the state while still on the trail in New Hampshire.
Yet, in front of the enthusiastic crowd in a coastal snowbird magnet, and after security escorted out a man who had shouted something about Ukraine funding, she dismissed the snub, positioning herself as a voice against South Carolina’s “political elite.”
“You see all those congressional members around him, the same ones that haven’t done anything for us. Don’t you think it’s finally time we had term limits in Washington?” she said.
“Trump can have them. I don’t want them,” she said.
The former United Nations ambassador needs buy-in from her state’s pro-Trump Republican electorate. South Carolina’s open primary may also work to her advantage, as New Hampshire’s own fairly open contest did.
Yet, she still lost to President Trump there by more than 10 percent. She and her supporters must fight the perception that she is on the way out, starting with the idea that the Palmetto State is his for the taking.
“This was Nikki’s state first!” Toni Faehner, originally from New Jersey, told The Epoch Times.
“She’s kind of alienated even from her own party, which is much more conservative, and she is a moderate,” said Phillip Maffei. He said he came to the area from New Jersey two decades ago in an interview with The Epoch Times.
Nearby, Katie from Bluffton, who was sitting with her young son Theo, chimed in: “Everything he said.”
While some analysts argue that the assessment of support for President Trump is clouded by a proliferation of “shy Trump voters,” she described something different—the “shy Haley voter.”
“A lot of people are gonna vote for her. They’re just not saying it out loud,” said Katie, another migrant from a colder, bluer state. In her case, it was Ohio.
On the issues, she sounded like many who vote for President Trump, voicing concerns about the Biden economy and the border. She relayed the disgust of her husband, a legal immigrant from Trinidad, at rampant illegal immigration under the current administration.
“It’s not fair,” she said.
Keith Chalpan, originally from Atlanta rather than Yankeedom, also counts the border and the economy among his big worries.
“I consider myself an independent, although, for the last number of years, I have voted Republican because I’m not comfortable with the direction the Democratic Party is going right now,” he told The Epoch Times.
He said he was prepared to back President Trump in the general election if it came to that.
“I would say I am more of an independent learning person. So it is going to be the independents that will determine the outcome of this election,” said Bob Faehner, the husband of Toni.
Mr. Faehner, a retired medical device salesman, characterized the former president as a bully.
“How can you support someone who treats and makes fun of other people like a sixth grader?” he said.
Supporters of President Trump also showed up, protesting with flags and MAGA paraphernalia in the parking lot.
“Nikki Haley is here, and I’m exercising my right to speak and to show my support for President Trump,” said Megan Fitzpatrick, who came to Hilton Head after previously owning a recycling firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I’m not protesting against her [Haley]. I just know Trump’s the best for us, and I wanted to express that to her,” said Wes Breinich, another local.