Former President Donald Trump used a rally in South Carolina on Saturday to attack rival Nikki Haley in her home state — and mock the absence of her husband, who is deployed overseas.
“Where's her husband? Oh, he's gone. … What happened to her husband? Where is he? He's gone,” Trump said at a rally in Conway, his first visit to the state this year.
Michael Haley, with the South Carolina Army National Guard, is deployed to Africa in support of U.S. Africa Command.
Nikki Haley responded to Trump's comments late Saturday, saying, “If you mock the service of a combat veteran, you don't deserve a driver's license, let alone the president of the United States.”
“Donald, if you have something to say, don't say it behind my back; Get on a podium and say it to my face,” he told a crowd in Gilbert, South Carolina.
In a rare move, Michelle Haley hit back at the former president, posting a meme on Twitter that read, “Difference between humans and animals? Animals never let the dumb lead,” the caption reads, referencing Trump's account.
Notably, former first lady Melania Trump has not joined her husband at any public campaign events since his presidential announcement in November 2022 and has not appeared with him in any of his court appearances.
continuously Big wins In all four early presidential nomination contests, Donald Trump has been emboldened by continuing to be the GOP front-runner. The former president and his campaign are more confident than ever that he will win enough delegates by mid-March to declare him the Republican nominee against former South Carolina Gov. Haley. A few months before the GOP National Convention in July, several Trump campaign advisers told CNN.
Trump's South Carolina stop comes ahead of a busy few days of travel. He appeared in Nevada on Thursday and addressed a friendly gathering at the National Rifle Association forum on Friday before heading to Pennsylvania to announce his victory in the state's GOP caucus.
I saw it on Thursday Many positive developments Including new campaign fodder against Trump President Joe Biden Following a release Report of the Special Counsel. While the report did not suggest charges against Biden, it did include some nasty words about him Mishandling of classified documents and raised concerns about his memory and age.
And on Thursday, the Supreme Court Trump's side seemed to have the upper hand and rejected an attempt in Colorado to declare him a rebel and remove him from the state's presidential election.
Haley insisted Plans to be in the race Her home state's Feb. 24 primary and beyond — buoyed by her enduring fundraising prowess. But Trump and his team see the Palmetto State primary as the place to deliver the final blow to his last major challenger.
That confidence is part of Trump's continued success in internal and public polls, which have consistently shown him stunning leads against Haley at the national and state levels.
An optimistic view of the remaining 2024 primaries has led Trump's campaign to take a less aggressive approach to the South Carolina primary, especially compared to the intensity of their ground game and get-out-the-vote tactics in previous nominating states.
Unlike the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, when Trump and his campaign relentlessly criss-crossed the state, campaigning for millions against his rivals, Trump had a relatively light schedule in South Carolina.
Saturday's rally in Conway, 15 miles from Myrtle Beach, was Trump's first state visit in 77 days. He plans to hold several more campaign events in the state before Feb. 24, but his team is taking a more laid-back approach to the contest as it focuses more on a general election rematch with Biden.
Trump's advisers insist that doesn't mean he's taking South Carolina for granted.
“Ultimately, we cannot take any state for granted. But we see this as a done deal,” a senior Trump adviser told CNN, specifically referring to South Carolina.
The Trump campaign's ground game efforts in South Carolina this year are significantly more sophisticated than they were during his primary presidential run in 2016, his advisers say, thanks in large part to a team they've built led by a senior adviser. Susie Wiles.
The campaign includes staffers spread across South Carolina's 46 counties, mailers touting Trump's candidacy, and top state lawmakers and surrogates — including Gov. Henry McMaster; US Sen. Tim Scott, former presidential contender; and several top members of the state's congressional delegation — to attack Haley in her own backyard.
Justin Evans, Trump's director of special projects in South Carolina, told CNN, “Nicky is the individual at this point. “Nicky represents the brand of Republicanism that Trump stands against; The George Bush-Karl Rove faction of the party is all embodied in and represented by Nikki Haley. This is their last gasp and they know that if they lose this, it will be an almost impossible task to gain any foothold not only in this election but also in the party.
Trump stepped up his attacks against Haley during his speech on Saturday, calling her “brain dead” and saying he thought the former South Carolina governor wouldn't pass an intelligence test. Her assertion came hours after Haley's campaign administered mental capacity tests during her campaign stop in Newberry, South Carolina. Haley, 52, has questioned Trump's mental health and called for mental capacity testing for any politician over 75. Trump is 77 and Biden is 81.
“Far-left Democrats like Nikki Haley because they know she's easy to win,” Trump said Saturday, boosting his lead in the polls.
Those comments reflect the broader vision of Trump's campaign, which wants him to quickly become the GOP nominee. According to multiple conversations with Trump's advisers, they are eager to use the full weight of the GOP infrastructure. That's the Republican National Committeeto begin eagerly leading the general election campaign against Biden.
Haley, for her part, seems unfazed by the pressure. one day After losing “None of these candidates,” he said in Nevada's untied primary Tuesday, held a fundraiser and rally in California, urging voters to stick with him in one of several Super Tuesday states he plans to contest next month.
In private and public conversations, Haley has insisted she has no plans to drop out of the race anytime soon — and has vowed to run against Trump through Super Tuesday on March 5.
There is also a former South Carolina governor sharpened his attacks on Trump in recent weeks, attacking his morale and tying him alongside Biden as one of two “grumpy old men.”
This story and topic have been updated with additional improvements.
CNN's Ebony Davis contributed to this report.
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