Haley says she raised a strong $12M in February, but can't point to long-term plan to beat Trump

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said Friday that she raised $12 million in February, a haul that will likely allow her to remain in the Republican primary against former President Donald Trump past next week's Super Tuesday — even though she can't point to an upcoming state where she expects to beat him.

The former ambassador to the United Nations noted that she outraised Trump in January and insisted that the donations have continued to flow despite her not having a long-term plan to challenge — or even really dent — the former president's commanding lead in the primary.

“When I go into a fundraiser," she said during a meeting with reporters in Washington, "They don't ask me, 'What's your strategy?' They don't ask me, 'What's your plan?' All they say is, ‘Thank you for giving me hope.’"

Haley got some good news later in the day, when moderate Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins became the first senators to endorse her, defying most top GOP leaders who have lined up behind Trump. Murkowski has her own personal history with the former president, who in 2021 vowed to personally campaign against her when she was up for reelection the following year — though that threat didn't stop the senator from winning another term in 2022.

Collins said late Friday that Haley's “experience as a successful Governor and as a strong representative of our country as ambassador to the United Nations makes her extremely well-qualified to serve as our first female president. She has the energy, intellect, and temperament that we need to lead our country in these very tumultuous times.”

Murkowski's home state of Alaska and Collins' home state of Maine are among the 15 holding GOP primaries Tuesday.

Haley's announced February total has not yet been verified by official campaign finance filings. Still, Haley argues that another strong month with donors shows that Republicans are hungry for a viable alternative to Trump. Haley, who is also a former South Carolina governor, is the last Trump challenger standing from a field that was once crowded with more than a dozen Republican White House candidates.

Trump has swept every early GOP contest heading into Saturday's primary in the nation's capital — including trouncing Haley in South Carolina. But Haley outraised Trump in January, taking in $11.5 million while her allied super PAC brought in another $12 million. The former president's campaign raised $8.8 million in January with his primary super PAC taking in another $7.3 million.

Asked about Haley announcing her strong February fundraising, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said, “Our focus is now on Joe Biden and the general election.”

“Republican voters have delivered resounding wins for President Trump in every single primary contest and this race is over," Cheung said.

As Biden steps up his own fundraising and travel around the country amid his own reelection campaign, the president has also zeroed in on Trump while largely assuming the race with Haley is over — calling his presidential predecessor a threat to the nation's core values and very democracy.

Haley says she's “not anti-Trump” and doesn't fault Republicans for voting for him in the primary. After her meeting with reporters, she held a campaign rally in Washington ahead of its GOP primary on Saturday — though there are only about 23,000 registered Republicans in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

“Who says there’s no Republicans in D.C.?” Haley joked to a crowd of more than 500 in a Washington hotel ballroom. She was finishing Friday in North Carolina, another Super Tuesday state.

In her earlier discussion with reporters, Haley ducked questions about where she might win a primary on Super Tuesday or beyond, saying, “I don't look all the way down the road." She has repeatedly refused to comment about long-term plans aside from saying that she will reevaluate after Tuesday.

“Super Tuesday, we're gonna try to be competitive. I hope we go forward. But, this is all about like, how competitive can we be?" Haley said. "Can we continue to show that there is a big number of Americans who are saying they want to go in this direction?”

She has said previously that she has no interest in mounting a third-party presidential challenge against Biden and Trump with the centrist No Labels group. Haley said Friday that she'd not spoken to No Labels but didn't plan on mounting a White House bid with them because she said it would require her to team up with a Democratic running mate.

“If I ran for No Labels that would mean it's about me," Haley said. "It's not about me, it's about the direction I think the country should go.”

Dick Best, a retired civil servant and Republican from Washington who described himself as a “strong supporter” of Haley, said he thought she had a good chance of winning the District of Columbia’s GOP primary. He pointed to her background on defense and willingness to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I think that’s a real strength that she has, is foreign policy and that she’s not an inherent pleaser,” Best said contrasting Haley with Trump, who has often seemed accommodating to Putin’s interests.

“It’s a real challenge,” Best said of Haley’s long-term primary chances. “But you never know what’s going to happen with the rest of the year.”