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Nikki Haley drops out of GOP presidential race and says Trump has to "earn" support

Haley suspends campaign after Super Tuesday defeat
Haley suspends presidential campaign after Super Tuesday defeat to Trump 02:28

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley suspended her 2024 presidential campaign on Wednesday, clearing the path for former President Donald Trump to win the Republican nomination. 

In short remarks at her campaign headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina, Haley did not endorse Trump, the front-runner for the nomination and the last remaining major candidate. She acknowledged that he will likely be the nominee and said she wished him well, but stopped short of supporting him.

"It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support him," Haley said. "And I hope he does that." 

Two sources close to Haley say she is eager to remain part of the GOP conversation, is proud of being the last contender standing against Trump and is not ruling out anything moving forward. Her top allies believe her run cements her as the standard bearer for traditional Republican values, especially with the looming exit of Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is stepping down as Senate minority leader and not running for reelection. 

Trump's reaction

Trump posted on social media that Haley got "TROUNCED" and pointed to Vermont's open primary for her victory there. 

"At this point, I hope she stays in the 'race' and fights it out until the end!" Trump wrote. 

Super Tuesday disappointment

The news comes just hours after Trump won commanding victories across nearly all the states holding Republican nominating contests on Super Tuesday, according to CBS News projections. Exit polls showed Trump leading Haley among broad segments of the GOP electorate, with voters saying immigration and the economy were their most important issues.

Haley denied Trump a clean sweep of the Super Tuesday contests with a victory in Vermont's Republican primary, just her second win of the primary season.

Trump is on track to reach the necessary 1,215 delegates to clinch the Republican nomination next week.

Super Tuesday was the latest in a series of setbacks for Haley, who vowed to stay in the race at least until then.

In February, Trump won nearly 60% of the vote in her home state while she got just 39.5%. 

And in Nevada, Haley suffered an embarrassing loss in the symbolic primary, where she was the only candidate still running who was on the ballot. "None of these" received more votes than Haley by a margin of 23 points. Days later, Trump ran in and won the Nevada caucuses, the only contest in the state to allocate delegates. Haley's campaign argued that the Nevada Republican Party had "rigged" the system for Trump.

Taking on Trump directly

Haley has been hammering Trump over Russia and raising questions about his ability to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially after the death in February of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

Haley campaigned heavily in New Hampshire for months and spent some time in Iowa in the final weeks before the caucuses there. After losing in those two states, Haley vowed to continue her bid and went on to campaign in South Carolina.

Haley, who was criticized earlier in the campaign for not distancing herself enough from Trump, began to hit him harder — blaming him for GOP losses in the Senate and House and creating "political chaos."

And she began raising questions about Trump's age. Two days before the New Hampshire primary, on the CBS News broadcast "Face the Nation," when Haley was asked about comments by Trump in which he appeared to confuse Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Haley told moderator Margaret Brennan, "Don't be surprised, if you have someone that's 80 in office, their mental stability is going to continue to decline."

Pressed on whether she questioned Trump's mental fitness, Haley responded, "We're seeing he's just not at the same level he was at 2016. I think we're seeing some of that decline."  

As the campaign headed into 2024, Haley and her team began touting the message of a "two-person race" — even before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped out shortly after Iowa. 

As Haley focused on her lone competitor in the Republican field, she would often urge voters to see that "chaos follows Donald Trump" and that the country could not afford to be distracted, given imminent national threats. 

Haley also pitched her electability compared to Trump, touting polls that showed she would handily beat President Biden in a general election match-up.

On the campaign trail, she often brought up the prospect of a Trump-Biden rematch, asking voters, "Do you want more of the same?" 

She pleaded with voters to move forward with a "new generational leader" to effectively put an end to "the chaos and the drama" to be able to work on the country's most pressing needs. 

Before the two-man race

Haley served in Trump's Cabinet as U.N. ambassador and heavily touted her experience with foreign policy as she campaigned, arguing that the U.S. must reject isolationist views and support American allies to keep the homeland safer.  

Heading into the first contests, Haley ran an ad featuring the mother of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was imprisoned in North Korea and died shortly after being returned to the U.S. On "Face the Nation" in January,  Haley accused Trump of trying to "buddy up with dictators that want to kill us." 

In the earlier phase of the race, she was attacked by DeSantis, who called her a "corporatist," by entrepreneur Vivek Ramasaway, who invoked her daughter's use of TikTok — causing Haley to call him "scum" — and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

As Christie was ending his own presidential candidacy, he was caught on a hot microphone predicting Haley was going to "get smoked" in the primaries. 

As DeSantis left the presidential race after his defeat in Iowa, he took a parting shot at Haley and endorsed Trump. 

The news of Haley dropping out of the race was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

-- Robert Costa, Fin Gomez and Caitlin Huey-Burns contributed to this story

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