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Network founded by Koch brothers endorses Nikki Haley for president

Koch network endorses Nikki Haley for 2024
Koch network endorses Nikki Haley for president 03:34

Americans for Prosperity Action, a libertarian conservative political policy network founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, endorsed Nikki Haley's presidential campaign on Tuesday. The group's endorsement provides an influx of resources and support for Haley as she looks to establish herself as the clear challenger to former President Donald Trump. 

AFP said the endorsement will include "a multimillion dollar ad campaign launching this week in all early and several Super Tuesday states calling on Americans to unite behind Haley's positive vision to turn the page on today's broken politics and move our country forward," according to a news release.

Its first ad supporting Haley on digital and TV Tuesday touts the former South Carolina governor as a fiscal conservative "who will take on reckless spending from both parties" and says that "Trump and [President Joe] Biden had their chance. They can't fix what's broken."

AFP told reporters in a call Tuesday it has already contacted more than six million voters about the 2024 race, and claimed it has the "largest grassroots operation in the country and a presence in all fifty states." 

The organization provided polling that suggests Haley's political identity is  not as well known, which AFP said is  a strength – not a disadvantage. 

"As voters have gotten to know more about her, her favorable ratings, as well as her ballot share, has only increased," AFP senior adviser Michael Palmer said. "In these early states and then particularly going into South Carolina and Super Tuesday, it's much easier to define or to craft a narrative around a blank slate with which people don't know about versus a book that's already written, which is the case with Donald Trump and also the case to a certain extent with Governor DeSantis." 

AFP officials previously indicated they were looking for a Trump alternative, writing in a memo in February that "the best thing for the country would be to have a president in 2025 who represents a new chapter." AFP did not endorse in the 2020 presidential race. 

AFP polling showed that since August, support for DeSantis has fallen in Iowa and New Hampshire, while support for Haley has risen.

"Congratulations to Donald Trump on securing the Koch endorsement," DeSantis communications director Andrew Romeo posted Tuesday morning, arguing that Haley "is a moderate who has no mathematical pathway of defeating the former president." DeSantis himself has previously argued that Haley's electorate doesn't cut as much into Trump's voter base as his does. 

"Every dollar spent on Nikki Haley's candidacy should be reported as an in-kind to the Trump campaign," Romeo added. 

Haley's team quickly threw the Florida governor's words during a Fox News interview back at him, when he touted his own endorsement by Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats

"If somebody endorses somebody other than you, you don't always have to lash out and attack the person who made the endorsement. It's a primary, people can have different choices in this, and there's not always an ulterior motive," DeSantis said Monday.

Trump's super PAC, "Make America Great Again Inc.," said the DeSantis campaign "finally got it right when they bitterly attacked Americans for Prosperity for being a vessel of globalist shills" and noted AFP's backing of DeSantis in his gubernatorial campaigns. 

AFP's affiliated super PAC spent more than $69 million in the 2022 cycle, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures. 

AFP Action has spent over $4.1 million on advertising this cycle, according to AdImpact. Since early October it has had a digital ad running in Iowa that says "we can't beat Biden until we let Trump go." 

The announcement by the billionaire-backed group comes just weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses and underscores the ramping up of endorsements, and suggests the GOP race is beginning to  coalesce. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Vander Plaats backed DeSantis in November, while New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu could soon be making an endorsement from his state.

Tuesday's endorsement comes at a time when more top GOP donors backing Haley have expressed the need to support an alternative to Trump. 

CBS News confirmed Haley will attend a fundraiser for her super PAC, Team Stand for America, in New York City on Dec. 4. The fundraiser is hosted by eight GOP donors, including Eric Levine, a New York-based donor and litigator. 

"Nikki Haley wins by wider margins against Joe Biden than Donald Trump does" Levine said. "I think it behooves the party to try to expand its base not make it smaller. Nikki Haley has a vision for the country, a positive vision for the country."

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