Nikki Haley suspends campaign for Republican presidential nomination

Former US ambassador to the UN lasted longer than other GOP candidates, but failed to seriously challenge Donald Trump.

Nikki Haley
Nikki Haley has ended bid for the Republican presidential nomination and congratulated frontrunner and final remaining GOP candidate, Donald Trump [Adam Davis/EPA-EFE]

Nikki Haley has officially suspended her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, leaving frontrunner and former United States President Donald Trump as the only remaining candidate for the 2024 GOP nod.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday morning, Haley thanked those who backed her bid for the White House.

“But the time has now come to suspend my campaign,” she said. “It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him. And I hope he does that.”

The decision comes after the former US ambassador to the United Nations was soundly defeated in most primaries during Super Tuesday elections.

Her departure from the race opens the way for a rematch between Trump and the incumbent Democrat, President Joe Biden, in November. It will be the first repeat presidential contest since 1956.

Al Jazeera correspondent John Hendren, reporting from North Carolina, said Haley’s announcement effectively means “the general election has unofficially begun”.

“And that means the Republican Party can actually throw its support behind Donald Trump, financially and otherwise,” Hendren said.

Haley lasted longer than any other Republican challenger to the frontrunner, drawing support from deep-pocketed donors. But she never posed a serious threat to Trump, whose grip on the party’s base remains firm despite his multiple criminal indictments.

Haley spent the final phase of her campaign warning Republican voters against embracing Trump, whom she said was too consumed by chaos and personal grievances to defeat Biden.

On Wednesday morning, she said Trump was likely to win the Republican nomination.

“I congratulate him and wish him well. I wish anyone well who would be America’s president,” she said. “Our country is too precious to let our differences divide us.”

Haley’s stronger showing among moderate Republicans and independents highlighted how Trump’s scorched-earth style of politics could make him vulnerable in an election expected to be dominated by the issues of economy and immigration.

She won unaffiliated voters by a wide margin in New Hampshire and notched almost 40 percent of the vote in South Carolina.

But Trump is on track to reach the required 1,215 delegates needed to snag the Republican nomination later this month.

United or not

Trump on Tuesday night declared that the Republican Party was united behind him, but in a statement shortly afterwards, Haley spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said, “Unity is not achieved by simply claiming, ‘We’re united.'”

“Today, in state after state, there remains a large block of Republican primary voters who are expressing deep concerns about Donald Trump,” Perez-Cubas said.

“That is not the unity our party needs for success. Addressing those voters’ concerns will make the Republican Party and America better.”

Haley had not originally planned to compete against Trump but later changed her mind, stating the US needs “generational change”.

The 52-year-old later called for competency tests for politicians over the age of 75 — a jab at both Trump, who is 77, and Biden, who is 81.

Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel in October made election campaigns shift towards foreign policy, and gave Haley the opportunity to showcase her experience from the UN. She argued that both Israel and the US could be made vulnerable by what she called “distractions”.

Elsewhere on the foreign policy front, Haley often complimented Trump’s achievements, but became more critical over time. She argued against his hyper-focus on trade with China and warned that weak support for Ukraine would “only encourage” China to invade Taiwan.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies