‘There isn’t a mainstream mega-donor now not looking at Nikki’: Haley catches post-debate spark


And the former governor is doing so on a relatively lean campaign budget, so far leaving all the TV to her aligned super PAC, SFA Fund Inc., and keeping her early state staffing footprint to a minimum.

Internally, officials on Haley’s super PAC believe the early bet they made on framing her as a steady figure on the world stage has paid off, and has dovetailed — as planned — with her debate performances. They’re now running a slate of ads zeroing in on her calls for competency tests for politicians.

On Thursday, Haley held a sold-out fundraising dinner in Los Angeles, with a $25,000-per-couple ticket price and waiting list to join, according to a campaign aide who was granted anonymity to discuss internal operations. It’s part of a trend of donor attention since the first debate. Close to 1,000 new donors who “want to give in more significant ways” have reached out to the campaign, the aide said, while declining to elaborate.

“From the very beginning, I talked to donors that were eager for that campaign to kind of come out guns blazing,” said Ozzie Palomo, a Connecticut-based GOP donor. Palomo has given to both Haley and her home state rival Tim Scott this year, but on Wednesday he was at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library lending his support to Haley in that night’s debate.

“To her campaign’s credit, they’ve had a methodical approach from Day One, and they stuck to it,” Palomo added. “They said, ‘Here’s how we’re going to spend it.’ From a donor perspective, you appreciate that. You have a lot of campaigns out there, they get a large infusion of cash and burn through it very quickly on things that may not necessarily deliver results in the polls and with the electorate.”

In a presidential field where no rival to Donald Trump has caught fire, Haley, it would seem, is at least on a slow burn. She remains miles behind Trump, the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination. But in stringing together two widely praised debates, she is inching up in polls and gaining interest from donors. An adviser to Haley noted the close relationships of her circle of longtime consultants, led by strategist Jon Lerner, and credited their history with what appears so far to be the successful implementation of the team’s long-game plan.

The campaign’s strategy moving forward, said spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas, is “head down, and doubling down,” continuing to barnstorm the early states of Iowa, where Haley will return on Saturday, as well as New Hampshire and South Carolina. And then there is the next debate. While viewership was down during the second debate, Haley’s team, with its limited resources, has long seen the televised events as key to her rise.

“A lot of Americans still don’t know who she is,” said Perez-Cubas. “She’s still introducing herself.”

Haley experienced a modest surge since her first debate performance in Milwaukee, after spending months lingering in the low-single digits following her February launch. Billionaire Ronald Lauder is among the deep-pocketed Republicans who are now considering putting money behind Haley, POLITICO reported this week, after considering DeSantis and Scott earlier in the race.

Representatives for Haley and DeSantis are slated to appear before a gathering of megadonors in mid-October, NBC first reported. A spokesperson for DeSantis confirmed his team’s attendance at the Oct. 13 event, while Haley’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

“There isn’t a mainstream megadonor now not looking at Nikki,” said one major donor to Haley granted anonymity to discuss the dynamics of the race. “They may not all be on board yet. But they are giving her a serious look and are starting to engage in one way or the other.”

It isn’t just donors noticing Haley, but also Trump, who appeared after Wednesday’s debate to see her clearly in the rearview mirror. While Trump’s social media rapid response team focused on attacking DeSantis and Chris Christie throughout the debate Wednesday — and Trump himself took aim at Christie afterward in his own post on Truth Social — his campaign sent out a press release during the debate about just one candidate: Haley.

“I mean, she’s obviously leapfrogging DeSantis,” said a senior Trump adviser, granted anonymity to discuss the Trump campaign’s decision-making. “And it says more about him than it does about her.”

Still, on Friday, Trump once again took aim at Haley and her promise to not launch a bid for president if Trump ran, writing on Truth Social: “MAGA, or I, will never go for Birdbrain Nikki Haley. No loyalty, plenty of lies!”

Chris LaCivita, a top Trump campaign adviser, in an interview dismissed Haley and the rest of the field of Republican rivals and the debate as a “sideshow,” while criticizing Trump’s opponents as being beholden to big donors.

“I love it — they all talk tough on China, but then they’ll take the Club for China Growth’s money,” LaCivita said. “People like politicians that are loyal. Nikki Haley is anything but, and that matters to Republican primary voters.”

Haley was among the Republican presidential hopefuls who attended a February donor retreat hosted by the conservative Club for Growth, which did not invite Trump. That group and another conservative organization, Americans for Prosperity, have each said they intend to support a Republican to oppose Trump in the primary, but have yet to put their weight behind any one candidate. So far, the groups have stuck to funding advertisements urging Republicans to move on from the former president.


Source link