Watch CBS News

Nikki Haley announces 2024 presidential bid, mounting first GOP challenge to Trump

Nikki Haley announces 2024 presidential bid
Nikki Haley announces 2024 presidential bid 02:05

Washington Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, announced Tuesday that she will make a bid for the White House, becoming the first Republican to challenge former President Donald Trump for the party's nomination.

Haley, who served under Trump, made the announcement in a video posted online, in which she declared that "it's time for a new generation of leadership."

"I'm Nikki Haley, and I'm running for president," she says at the close of the video.

The daughter of Indian immigrants, Haley was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, and would go on to become the state's first female governor and the first Indian-American to lead the state. If she wins the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, she would make history again as the first woman and first Asian-American at the top of the GOP ticket.

Haley is set to deliver a speech to supporters announcing her run in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday, and then travel to New Hampshire and Iowa, the first states on the presidential primary calendar, in the days after. Haley will return to South Carolina in mid-March for a conservative forum.

In her campaign announcement, Haley lamented that Republicans lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight elections, a trend "that has to change."

"The Washington establishment has failed us over and over and over again," she said. 

Haley initially told The Associated Press in April 2021 that she would not run against Trump if he decided to mount a third presidential campaign, but indicated in an interview with Fox News that her plans for her political future may have changed, citing the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan and economic woes. 

"When you're looking at the future of America, I think it's time for new generational change. I don't think you need to be 80 years old to go be a leader in D.C.," Haley told Fox News in January. "I think we need a young generation to come in, step up, and really start fixing things."

President Biden, who is expected to announce his reelection campaign soon, is 80 years old, and Trump is 76. Haley is 51.

While Trump has offered Haley luck and said he encouraged her to "follow her heart," Taylor Budowich, head of the Trump-aligned MAGA Inc. super PAC, criticized Haley as "just another career politician." 

"She started out as a Never Trumper before resigning to serve in the Trump [administration]," he said in a statement. "She then resigned early to go rake in money on corporate boards. Now, she's telling us she represents a 'new generation.' Sure just looks like more of the same, a career politician whose only fulfilled commitment is to herself."

Haley has consistently polled third or fourth behind Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another expected candidate, in early polls on the 2024 GOP presidential primary. 

In a Club for Growth Action poll of GOP voters nationally released earlier this month, Haley placed fourth, with 5% of the vote. But GOP operatives and South Carolina-based Republican leaders have said Haley's recognition in and ties to the Palmetto State could help her in a presidential run.

"With Nikki Haley officially entering the race for the presidency — and the only true contender at this point being her former boss — this is going to prove to be a fight of formidable foes," Dave Wilson of the Palmetto Family Council, a prevalent South Carolina conservative-leaning nonprofit, told CBS News. "Over the years in South Carolina, people have quite often underestimated Nikki Haley. At this point, I expect the next 12 months to prove how well she can master the national stage."

In a small January poll of likely Republican voters in the state by the South Carolina Policy Council, 47% said the GOP should nominate someone other than Trump, compared to 37% that supported him.

Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said Haley brings a valuable voice to the race, and now is the time "to have the competition."

"I think we need a diversity of voices and certainly more women nominees from Republicans, as we had some last time," Capito told CBS News, adding that Haley is "smart to get in early" and "anybody at this point has a decent chance."

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who ran for the Republican nomination in 2016 and received Haley's endorsement, told CBS News that running for president with Trump on the ballot is a "tricky balancing act," and the former president will "hit all his opponents."

"As I learned in my campaign, it's not an easy thing to pull of or do," Rubio said. "Running for president is hard. Running against Donald Trump is really hard. He's a talented communicator in the modern era, especially."

Still, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who was the GOP nominee for president in 2012, said he thinks people will be "surprised to see how well" Haley does, noting she has "backbone and capability." 

During her six-year tenure as governor of South Carolina, Haley gained the national spotlight after she ordered the removal of the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds after nine people were killed by a white supremacist in a racially-motivated shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015.

She delivered the Republican response to then-President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in 2016.

Following her two terms in the governor's mansion, she was selected by Trump as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, serving in the role from January 2017 to December 2018. After leaving the Trump administration, Haley launched the Stand for America PAC, which was active during the 2022 midterm elections.

She has also made trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, key states during the presidential primaries.  

While Haley and Trump are the only two Republicans officially in the race for the party's nomination, the field is expected to grow, with former Vice President Mike Pence, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and DeSantis among the potential candidates. 

Some of Haley's expected opponents are holding events in early presidential primary states, too. Pence will be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday for an education rally, the same day as Haley's event, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem will be kicking off several policy-related speeches in Washington, D.C. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, whom Haley appointed to the position in 2012, will be appearing at event in his home state on Thursday to talk about Black conservatism.

Robert Costa contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.