Nikki Haley formally enters her home-state primary as new poll suggests she has momentum in Iowa

Nikki Haley claimed new momentum in the race to supplant Donald Trump as her party’s front-runner during an appearance in her home state Monday, where she formally filed to appear on the South Carolina Republican presidential primary ballot.

The former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador returned to the Statehouse where her political career took off for a signing ceremony. She suggested that by the time of South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary, she might be able to beat Trump, who maintains huge leads nationally and in early primary states.

A Des Moines Register poll released Monday shows Haley pulling even in Iowa with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, even as both lag far behind the former president. Haley and DeSantis are vying for second place in hopes of consolidating the support of people who want an alternative to Trump, with their campaigns and allied super PACs increasingly targeting each other in ads and messaging.

A field that began with roughly a dozen candidates is shrinking. Former Vice President Mike Pence ended his bid over the weekend amid lackluster polling numbers and low fundraising totals. Those numbers will only continue to dwindle after the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus and subsequent New Hampshire primary, Haley said.

“Then we’ll come to the sweet state of South Carolina, and we’ll finish it,” Haley said.

With Israel deepening its offensive into Gaza, Haley positioned herself as a strong candidate on foreign policy. She criticized the Biden administration for loosening sanctions on Iran, and emphasized that the United States should play only a “supporting role” to Israel. She said she would not have pressed the Israeli government to restore internet communications recently in the Gaza Strip.

“I have been in those tunnels. I have been on the border of Lebanon. I’ve been on the border of Syria. I’ve seen what happens in Gaza,” Haley told supporters on Monday. “When you see it, you see how sophisticated this is.”

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