Nikki Haley tells Minnesota crowd it's time for a new direction in White House race

Nikki Haley stands on stage
Republican presidential hopeful and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event in Bloomington on Monday.
Stephen Maturen | AFP via Getty Images

Republican Nikki Haley appealed to a Minnesota crowd Monday to help keep her bid for the party presidential nomination going in a nominating contest so far controlled by former President Donald Trump.

The former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina governor has yet to get a win in the Republican presidential primary season. But Haley hopes that Super Tuesday results will allow her campaign to press on. 

Speaking to a crowd of several hundred people in a hotel ballroom in Bloomington, Haley said a rematch between Trump and Democratic President Joe Biden is one much of the nation dreads.

“Look, we have a decision to make,” Haley said. “Do we go with more of the same or do we move in a new direction?”

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She implored those in the crowd to “text everybody” and “email everybody” to turn out for her next Tuesday.

“If you can’t put a yard sign in your yard, put it in the back of your car. Spread the word and get involved. Be a part of the solution,” Haley said.

Trump has won every GOP presidential nomination contest thus far, including a 20-point victory over Haley in her home state of South Carolina over the weekend.

Haley’s drop-in rally was part of a broader swing through some of the 15 states holding contests next week. Minnesota was one of the places that snubbed Trump in 2016, sending him to a third-place finish in a primary won by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Nikki Haley poses with a crowd of fans
Republican presidential hopeful and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley greets supporters after speaking at a campaign event in Bloomington on Monday.
Stephen Maturen | via Getty Images

Bob Frazee, 82, was in the hotel ballroom where Haley spoke. He said he voted for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. He maintains now both are too old to successfully lead the country for a second term as president.

“We need someone fresh and new. We need to get rid of the old guys,” Frazee said. “I’m sorry but Trump is just, he’s a narcissistic old man and we need someone with some fresh ideas.”

Frazee said he’s not ready to write Haley off. Neither is T.J. Ringer, a 20-year-old from Minnetonka, who is turned off by Trump.

“I just think he brings too much chaos and I don’t really think he’ll win a general election,” Ringer said. “I think Nikki easily could beat Biden and that’s kind of what I care about.”

The electability rationale is central to Haley’s pitch to voters. Haley argues she would do better in a general election than Trump – and many polls bear that out. Even so, she is not resonating with enough GOP activists to gain traction on Trump.

Inside Elections editor and publisher Nathan Gonzales, who analyzes national campaigns, said Haley’s struggle isn’t complicated.

“Fundamentally, Nikki Haley’s challenge is that she's selling an alternative to voters who aren’t interested in an alternative that a majority of Republicans are fine with,” Gonzales said. “President Trump being their leader and moving ahead with him as their nominee for the third consecutive election, and it’s hard to see what is going to change about the race that would cause enough Republicans to shift away from Trump and on to Haley.”

As part of her stop, Haley touted an endorsement from former Minnesota U.S. Sen Rudy Boschwitz, a 93-year-old who has remained active in politics despite being out of office since 1991.

Nikki Haley greets a man
Nikki Haley greets supporters after speaking at a campaign event in Bloomington on Monday.
Stephen Maturen | AFP via Getty Images

Minnesota’s place deeper into the primary calendar has deprived its voters of much attention from presidential hopefuls.

Monday’s stop marked Haley’s first visit. Trump hasn’t been to Minnesota this campaign.

On the Democratic side, Biden and members of his team have made frequent visits on official business, and there is an expectation of campaign-style visits prior to the primary.

Haley’s event in Bloomington was in the U.S. House district represented by Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips. He’s running for president but hasn’t done much by way of campaigning for that office in the state this year.

Phillips, a three-term congressman, is a known quantity in Minnesota so he’s spent his time elsewhere. That includes Michigan, which has its primary on Tuesday.

There’s a big movement in Michigan to vote “uncommitted” as a way to protest the Biden administration’s stance on the conflict in the Middle East. Some members of Minnesota’s Muslim community have their own “abandon Biden” effort in the works.

With one week to go before the state primary election, the group wants Democratic to withhold support for Biden as a way to pressure him to do more to attain a cease-fire in Gaza. 

Elected officials, including the St. Paul City Council President Mitra Jalali, have joined the campaign to withhold backing from Biden.

Nikki Haley waves as she arrives to speak during a campaign event in Bloomington on Monday.
Stephen Maturen | AFP via Getty Images