Nikki Haley Makes Appeal to MAGA Crowd at CPAC

Nikki Haley Makes Appeal to MAGA Crowd at CPAC
Nikki Haley, who announced her run for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination last month, on March 3 addressed the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which over the past several years has been a forum for the Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement led by former President Donald Trump, under whom Haley served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and who is running again.

About six in 10 Republicans identify more with the party than with Trump, according to an NBC News poll released in December. Nonetheless, the MAGA coalition of the GOP is a significant plurality and, lately, Trump leads in numerous polls. Therefore, Haley, a conservative who has both praised and criticized the populist Trump, had to appeal to the MAGA constituency.

And she came out swinging.

Throughout her speech, Haley fed the crowd red meat, starting with going after the left-wing media.

“In case you didn’t notice, the liberal media’s heads are exploding about my run for president. And we all know why,” she said. “The media can’t stand the fact that I’m a conservative.

“Think about it. I’m a woman, I’m a minority, and I’m the daughter of immigrants. I am proof that liberals are wrong about everything they say about America!”

Referring to old guard politicians as “that crowd,” she went after President Joe Biden’s age, which is 80. Haley reiterated her call for politicians over the age of 75 to take mental competency tests. She called out Biden by name but did not do the same toward Trump in what appeared to be a pivot toward making age an issue when it comes to Democrats but not the 76-year-old former president.

“When I launched my campaign, I said every politician over 75 years old should be required to take a mental competency test,” she said. “Have you seen DC lately?”

Then, it was back to going after the media, namely CNN co-anchor Don Lemon.

“Now Don Lemon … he claimed I’m not in my prime.”

To anyone who thinks that, I say “Hold my beer,” she said, eliciting laughter and applause.

“I’m 51. That’s younger than Don Lemon. It’s also younger than Hunter Biden. And 30 years younger than Joe Biden.”

Lemon is 57 and Hunter Biden is 53.

“But Don says women have to be in their 20s or 30s to be in their prime,” Haley said. “And the left say we’re sexist?”

Returning to her pledge of having mental competency tests, she expanded the requirement to judges and, in an apparent reference to herself, said she wouldn’t even mind if the age requirement were lowered to 50.

Throughout her speech, Haley, the daughter of immigrants, touched upon socialism and countering wokeism, and the notion that America is a racist nation. She also mentioned other issues of interest to MAGA supporters including combating China and illegal immigration, standing with law enforcement, and protecting the integrity of U.S. elections.

Haley announced she would not allow U.S. taxpayer money to go to universities that receive money from China.

She was careful, however, not to alienate key constituencies such as suburbanites, who have increasingly voted Democrat in recent years, and she touched upon issues that are not front and center in the MAGA movement including the $31 trillion, and growing, national debt and earmarks.

She confronted the isolationism in that GOP branch by saying, “A strong military doesn’t start wars. A strong military prevents wars.”

All in all, Haley got a positive reception. There was no wild cheering, but neither was there widespread booing, according to someone in the audience. Following her speech, a cluster of people, including young women, wanted to have their pictures taken with the candidate. Haley obliged them by coming off the stage.

Whether Haley’s words to the MAGA crowd make a difference is to be determined. But her mission—going to CPAC and then the Trump-critical Club for Growth’s donor retreat is clear: Make her coalition as broad as possible so she can win the Republican nomination and send Biden packing.

By Jackson Richman