An anti-Trump group that was founded by billionaire Charles Koch on Tuesday morning endorsed Republican candidate Nikki Haley’s 2024 presidential bid.
The announcement was delivered through a memo to activists via its advocacy arm, announcing it will spend millions of dollars on advertisements to bolster Ms. Haley, the former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor.
“At the outset of our strategy, we made clear that we would be business-like in our decision. We would support a candidate capable of turning the page on Washington’s toxic culture—and a candidate who can win,” Emily Seidel, senior adviser to Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Action, said in the memo. “And last night, we concluded that analysis. That candidate is Nikki Haley.”
The memo added that Ms. Haley “represents a new generation of leadership and offers a bold, positive vision for our future. AFP Action is proud to be endorsing her and we will be doing everything we can to help make her the next President of the United States.”
AFP Action first announced its plans to oppose President Trump earlier this year, claiming that he is ill-equipped to defeat current President Joe Biden in 2024. The group stayed out of the 2016 and 2020 election cycles.
“I’m honored to have the support of Americans for Prosperity Action, including its millions of grassroots members all across the country,” Ms. Haley said in a statement to news outlets about the Koch group’s announcement. “AFP Action’s members know that there is too much at stake in this election to sit on the sidelines. This is a choice between freedom and socialism, individual liberty and big government, fiscal responsibility and spiraling debt. We have a country to save, and I’m grateful to have AFP Action by our side.”
Hours before the Koch group’s announcement, President Trump offered more criticism of Ms. Haley on Truth Social, painting her as disloyal and duplicitous. “The [DeSantis] donors are coming to me (if I even want them, which I don’t!), not to, ‘I’ll never run against President Trump’ Haley, who was very average in every way. Just like 2016 all over again. She’s not solving Israel, Iran, Ukraine, Inflation, or anything else!” he added.
In response, Mr. DeSantis’ campaign spokesman claimed that the Koch endorsement means that “the pro-open borders, pro-jail break bill establishment is lining up behind a moderate who has no mathematical pathway of defeating” former President Donald Trump in the primary.
“Every dollar spent on Nikki Haley’s candidacy should be reported as an in-kind to the Trump campaign. No one has a stronger record of beating the establishment than Ron DeSantis, and this time will be no different,” spokesman Andrew Romeo said in an emailed statement.
As of Tuesday morning, President Trump hasn’t released a public statement on the matter.
Mr. DeSantis, Ms. Haley, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have publicly signaled they are trying to shoot for an upset in an early primary state like Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina to potentially erode some of President Trump’s support. However, they have made little headway in doing so.
President Trump’s lead in the polls has only grown in recent weeks despite four separate criminal cases against him. A recent aggregate of polls provided by RealClearPolitics shows President Trump has 61.6 percent support, while Mr. DeSantis has 13.7 percent support, and Ms. Haley has 9.8 percent support.
In New Hampshire, recent polls suggest Ms. Haley has risen to second place and is ahead of Mr. DeSantis by double digits. An Iowa poll released in late October shows that both Mr. DeSantis and Ms. Haley are in second place with 16 percent, but it shows that President Trump has 43 percent support.
She is No. 2 behind President Trump in South Carolina, with 18.8 percent of the GOP primary vote, according to RealClearPolitics’s average of recent polls. Mr. DeSantis has 10.5 percent support, and President Trump has 49 percent.
In terms of endorsements, President Trump has by far the most. Dozens of U.S. House representatives, U.S. senators, and governors have publicly backed the former president, including recently, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this month.
Despite the poll numbers, Ms. Haley said in a recent event Monday that she believes she has “real” momentum and claimed that “chaos” follows President Trump wherever he goes.
“I agree with a lot of his policies, but the truth is, rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him,” she said. “We have too much division in this country, and too many threats around the world to be sitting in chaos once again.”
Also on Monday, she criticized the former president’s recent appearance in her home state at Saturday’s football rivalry matchup between the University of South Carolina and her alma mater, Clemson University. President Trump was a guest of GOP Gov. Henry McMaster, Ms. Haley’s successor and an alumnus of South Carolina, which lost to Clemson.
Meanwhile, Ms. Haley in recent days has courted controversy with her recent comments about social media, suggesting that all social media users must be verified and cannot remain anonymous. Her comments drew immediate pushback from GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, Elon Musk, and others, with some likening her push to China’s draconian social credit score system.
Mr. Musk, the owner of X, formerly known as Twitter. “Super messed up,” he wrote. “She can stop pretending to run for president now.”
Days later, she walked back her social media remarks. In a bid to clarify her stance, Ms. Haley said that “life would be more civil if we were able to do that,” but was instead focused on foreign-based actors, not American citizens.