Trump's 2024 Operation Takes a New Aim: Targeting Nikki Haley as Momentum Builds

The focus of Former President Donald Trump's 2024 operation seems to have shifted from criticizing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to now targeting former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has gained more momentum in the race leading up to the first nominating contests.

In September 2023, Trump's campaign initiated a "Kiss of Death Countdown" for DeSantis, following a timeline allegedly provided to the governor by Never Back Down's former top strategist, Jeff Roe. The purpose was to assist the Florida governor in altering the course of his campaign. The countdown began after enduring months of relentless attacks from Trump's campaign and associated super PAC, with a particular focus on DeSantis while largely disregarding other contenders in the Republican race.

However, on December 28th, the campaign decided to shift its focus and sent out a memo titled "Kiss of Death" that centered around Haley instead of DeSantis. The strongly-worded email represented a heightened level of criticism towards Haley from the Trump campaign, indicating a change in their priorities. "The Democrats have found their preferred candidate in Nikki Haley, who they believe will divert attention from Joe Biden's shortcomings and support him in his opposition against President Trump," stated Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Trump.

Two more memos titled "Kiss of Death" were sent out, one on December 29th and another on Wednesday, both regarding Haley. However, DeSantis has managed to avoid being affected by it since December 26th.

Despite initially being seen as a strong contender against Trump, DeSantis has struggled to bridge the divide between himself and the former president. Throughout his campaign, he has faced continuous ridicule and criticism from Trump and his team.

MAGA Inc., the super PAC backing Trump's 2024 campaign, mirrored the campaign's strategy by primarily targeting DeSantis throughout the primary cycle.

However, on December 19th, the group released a Haley attack ad in New Hampshire, a state where she has been performing exceptionally well. The advertisement, titled "Really?" claims that New Hampshire cannot afford Nikki 'High Tax' Haley.

The advertisement is currently being broadcasted in the state of New Hampshire. MAGA Inc. has confirmed to the Washington Examiner that they have ceased running any advertisements targeting DeSantis. In 2023, a number of advertisements released by the PAC focused on DeSantis, coinciding with his decrease in popularity among voters.

Upon the release of the ad, Olivia Perez-Cubas, a spokesperson for Haley, confidently stated, "Donald Trump's misleading attack ad is a clear indication that Nikki Haley's popularity is growing and Trump is feeling threatened."

Haley responded to the spot on X. "Just two days ago, Donald Trump dismissed the increase in our support in New Hampshire." Now, he's airing a critical advertisement targeting me. "Looks like someone is feeling a bit uneasy," she remarked, presenting the attack as proof of her influence over the former president.

Trump's campaign surrogates and those associated with the super PAC have also redirected their focus on social media. Instead of discussing DeSantis, they are now examining Haley's record as governor of South Carolina and her 2024 campaign through various articles and posts.

There has been a noticeable change in Trumpworld's approach, coinciding with Haley's continued success and growing popularity since her debut in August. Haley's performances at each subsequent debate were highly praised by viewers and further elevated her standing in the polls. In New Hampshire, particularly in terms of popularity, Haley has experienced a significant rise, with polling of likely Republican primary voters showing her trailing Trump by only 14 points.

As a result of her strong performance, Haley surpassed DeSantis in the RealClearPolitics polling average of the 2024 Republican primary on Wednesday. The previous U.N. ambassador currently has a polling percentage of 11%, while DeSantis is polling slightly lower at 10.9%. Trump is currently ahead of the competition with a commanding 62.7%.

Trump's shift in attention could be a setback for DeSantis, even though his anger is no longer solely directed at the Florida governor. Despite Trump's criticism of DeSantis, the Florida Republican's campaign consistently highlighted this as evidence of his ability to confront Trump.


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