Nikki Haley Seizes Spotlight With ‘State Of The Race’ Speech Announcing That She’s Not Dropping Out

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When Nikki Haley’s campaign announced on Monday that she would be giving a “state of the race” speech at noon ET today, there was immediate speculation that she was about to drop out of the race.

Instead, what she announced was that she was staying in, even though polling shows that she’s on her way to a significant defeat to Donald Trump in Saturday’s South Carolina primary.

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“Some of you, perhaps a few of you in the media, came here today to see if I’m dropping out of the race,” she said. “Well, I’m not. Far from it, and I am here to tell you why.”

If her strategy was to get media attention for her speech, it worked: Major cable news networks carried at least parts of it live, and clips quickly trended on social media. The campaign’s cryptic announcement of the speech on Monday only seemed to build interest and curiosity, even if there was little new news from the event and even if campaign officials insisted to journalists beforehand that she wasn’t getting out.

Haley did step up her attacks on Trump, telling her supporters that “I feel no need to kiss the ring” and that she has “no fear of retribution.”

“It’s not normal to insult our military heroes and veterans,” she said. “It’s not normal to spend $50 million in campaign contributions on personal court cases. It’s not normal to threaten people who back your opponent. And it’s not normal to call on Russia to invade NATO countries. Donald Trump has done all of that and more in just the past month.”

Earlier this week, Haley said at a Fox News town hall that she would pardon Trump “in the best interests of bringing the country together.” “I think it is important for the country to move on,” she said.

Still, she has been under pressure to drop out of the race by Trump and his allies, and she held up her refusal to do so as evidence that she was not seeking some other position. “Some people say I was running because I really wanted to be vice president,” she said today. “I think I have settled that question.”

Haley got emotional during her speech as she talked about her husband, Michael Haley, who is on military deployment in Africa. In a speech earlier this month, Trump had questioned her husband’s whereabouts, remarks that Haley called “disgusting.”

Haley said today, “I wish Michael was here today, and I wish our children and I could see him tonight, but we can’t. He’s serving on the other side of the world, where conflict is the norm, where terrorists hide among the innocent, where Iran’s terrorist proxies are now attacking American troops.”

Haley vowed to stay in the race beyond the South Carolina primary, telling her supporters, “I refuse to quit.” “Dropping out would be the easy route,” she said.

After her speech, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung wrote on X/Twitter, “She’s going to drop down to kiss ass when she quits, like she always does.”

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