NEWTON, Iowa — Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign got a surprise endorsement Friday from a former Republican Party of Iowa executive director.
Haley was taking questions from Iowans at a town hall in Newton when Marlys Popma stood up to speak.
“I was an undecided voter when I walked in here today, and I am no longer an undecided voter,” she said, drawing applause from the crowd. “And I just want to tell Nikki that I wholeheartedly support you.”
Popma is a former executive director for the Republican Party of Iowa and a former president of Iowa Right to Life. She’s worked for multiple presidential campaigns, including for John McCain in 2008 and Ted Cruz in 2016.
Popma, 67, of Kellogg, continued with her remarks, telling the crowd to create “a Nikki Haley explosion” that starts in Jasper County.
“I want to tell the people in this room, this all happens in Iowa,” she said. “Don’t look at the polls. Don’t look at what the media is telling you. Look at what you’ve heard today. And be bold and don’t be afraid to support the person you want to support because you think that somebody else is going to win. Because that’s how we lose.”
“Thank you,” Haley told Popma after she finished speaking. “God bless you. I appreciate that.”
Popma’s endorsement of Haley came a few hours before the Family Leader’s Thanksgiving Forum, the final multi-candidate event of the year run by the influential conservative Christian group. The group’s leader, Bob Vander Plaats, has yet to endorse a candidate.
Haley has declined to push for a national abortion ban, instead saying Republican presidential candidates need to “be honest” with the American people that there isn’t support in Congress for such a proposal.
Instead, Haley said she wants to “stop demonizing” women over the issue and push to “save as many babies as we can and support as many moms as we can.”
Popma said she’s satisfied with Haley’s position on abortion. She said she met with Haley privately before the town hall and asked if Haley would sign a law banning abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy if Congress sent it to her.
Popma said Haley told her, “I’m going to do whatever I can to save as many babies as I can.”
“She has a softer approach to the issue, but is as pro-life as any of us would want her to be,” she said.
Haley praised Popma in a statement following the event.
“Marlys has spent a lifetime using the power of her voice to fight for the unborn and rally Iowans to the cause,” Haley said in the statement. “It’s an honor to have her endorsement and support.”