Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announces slate of endorsements, aiming to leap ahead of DeSantis

By: - November 14, 2023 5:34 pm

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley spoke to a crowd of roughly 250 people at the Horizon Events Center in Clive Sept. 30, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley won endorsements from 72 Iowa elected officials, community leaders and business owners Tuesday as she aims to emerge as the top rival to former President Donald Trump in the 2024 Iowa Republican caucuses.

Haley’s chief competition for the spot is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom she tied with in the October Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll at 16%. Both candidates are running far behind Trump, whom 43% of likely Republican caucusgoers have named as their first choice.

DeSantis won an important Iowa endorsement earlier in October from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a popular figure with teh state’s Republicans. The super PAC backing Trump also released a poll testing whether Trump’s lead would falter if the Family Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats endorsed DeSantis, although the conservative Christian leader has not shared plans to endorse a presidential candidate.

Haley’s slate of endorsements include Iowa Reps. Jane Bloomingdale, R-Northwood; Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant; Casey’s founder Don Lamberti; and Mary Kramer, a former U.S. Ambassador to Barbados under former President George W. Bush.

Like Reynolds and DeSantis, Haley has also held office as a Republican governor, serving in South Carolina from 2011 to 2017 before vacating the position to serve at the United Nations under Trump. David Oman, former chief of staff for Govs. Robert Ray and Terry Branstad, said he endorsed Haley because of her experience as a governor — and because of her unique foreign policy experience.

“We’ve had some good former governors in this race,” Oman said in a statement. “Now, only one brings serious foreign policy experience at a critical time with threats in both hemispheres. Gov. Haley, Ambassador Haley, will lead and make Americans proud as President Haley.”

The most recent Iowa Poll found that Haley was the only candidate to grow her presence in recent months on the Iowa caucus trail, rising by 10 percentage points from the August poll. While DeSantis fell by 3 percentage points in the same period — from 19% to 16% — he has the same overall footprint as Trump, with 67% of likely GOP caucusgoers saying the two candidates are their first or second choice, or that they are “actively considering” the candidates. Haley has a smaller footprint with 54% of likely caucusgoers considering her.

Haley is returning to Iowa Thursday and Friday, holding campaign events in Waverly, Ankeny and Newton.

In addition to holding events, Haley’s campaign plans to spend $10 million on campaign ads, which will air in Iowa and New Hampshire beginning in December. In a news release Monday about the ad buy, Haley’s campaign staff said the ad buy signals the candidate’s financial strength in comparison to DeSantis in the months before the 2024 nominating cycle.

“Nikki Haley’s momentum and path to victory are clear,” Haley for President Campaign Manager Betsy Ankney said in the news release. “The same can’t be said for Ron DeSantis, who, even with a decent showing in Iowa, can’t afford a cup of coffee at the Red Arrow Diner in New Hampshire and is a mere tourist in South Carolina. Nikki’s campaign is built to win the primary against Donald Trump and all polls show she is by far the strongest Republican against Joe Biden in the general.”

Super PACs supporting DeSantis and Haley have released campaign ads criticizing the other candidate on foreign policy this fall. The Never Back Down super PAC released ads criticizing Haley for allowing Chinese companies to build on American land as South Carolina governor, while the SFA Fund PAC supporting Haley said DeSantis is “throwing mud” because his campaign is faltering.

Iowa Sen. Chris Cournoyer, the Iowa state chair for Haley’s campaign, called for Iowans to support Haley in the caucuses.

“Nikki is the woman in the arena,” Cournoyer said in a statement. “She’s bold, she’s tough, and she’s ready to take on every challenge that stands in the way of America’s success. If we are serious about making Joe Biden a one-term president, it’s time for us to unite and rally behind Nikki Haley.”

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.