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Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity endorses Nikki Haley in snub of Trump and DeSantis

November 28, 2023
| Washington Examiner by Mabinty Quarshie

Americans for Prosperity Action, a network connected to conservative billionaire Charles Koch, endorsed former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley‘s 2024 campaign on Tuesday as she battles Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) in their race to take on former President Donald Trump to become the GOP’s next standard-bearer.

The endorsement comes less than two months before the crucial Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15, in which DeSantis and Haley are hoping for a strong showing to thwart Trump’s march to the nomination. Haley has seen her polling and fundraising figures increase over the last three months as DeSantis’s campaign has struggled amid infighting and decreasing poll numbers.

“AFP Action is proud to throw our full support behind Nikki Haley, who offers America the opportunity to turn the page on the current political era, to win the Republican primary and defeat Joe Biden next November,” the group wrote in a memo released Tuesday. “She has what it takes to lead a policy agenda to take on our nation’s biggest challenges and help ensure our country’s best days are ahead. With the grassroots and data capability we bring to bear in this race, no other organization is better equipped to help her do it.”

In a polling memo also released on Tuesday, the group acknowledged Trump’s polling dominance but pointed to Haley’s growing support among GOP voters as an opening for her campaign. “Haley has more room to make her case to primary voters as she is less defined than Trump or DeSantis,” Michael Palmer, AFP Action senior adviser, wrote in the memo.

“Right now, polling from states other than Iowa and New Hampshire shows President Trump with a significant lead, similar to national polls where Haley and DeSantis are in the teens,” Palmer wrote. “In these states, a clear trend can be seen in terms of growing support for Haley and shrinking support for DeSantis amongst GOP primary and caucus-goers, with Haley growing from single digits in early August to now being in second place. In contrast, in this same time period, DeSantis has been static or shrinking.”

AFP Action is one of the top conservative groups opposing the former president’s reelection bid and has already spent millions of dollars in the early-nominating states on anti-Trump mailers. The group’s endorsement will boost Haley’s campaign with much-needed resources before Jan. 15, but given Trump’s lead, it is unclear how effective of a surge it will provide Haley.

“Our endorsement means more than just strategic advice. It means thousands of AFP Action activists and grassroots leaders out across the country knocking doors and making phone calls, having valuable one-on-one conversations with voters, with a focus on early primary states,” Emily Seidel, AFP Action senior adviser, said in a press call Tuesday. “And in the coming days, we’ll launch extensive mail, digital, and connected television campaigns to supplement those underground efforts.”

Haley thanked AFP Action in a statement Tuesday for its grassroots support. “I’m honored to have the support of Americans for Prosperity Action, including its millions of grassroots members all across the country,” Haley said. “AFP Action’s members know that there is too much at stake in this election to sit on the sidelines. This is a choice between freedom and socialism, individual liberty and big government, fiscal responsibility and spiraling debt. We have a country to save, and I’m grateful to have AFP Action by our side.”

However, the endorsement is not without backlash.

A spokesman for DeSantis’s campaign slammed AFP Action on Tuesday on social media.

“Congratulations to Donald Trump on securing the Koch endorsement. Like clockwork, the pro-open borders, pro-jail break bill establishment is lining up behind a moderate who has no mathematical pathway of defeating the former president,” campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Every dollar spent on Nikki Haley’s candidacy should be reported as an in-kind to the Trump campaign. No one has a stronger record of beating the establishment than Ron DeSantis, and this time will be no different.”

In recent weeks, DeSantis and his affiliated super PAC, Never Back Down, have tussled over the strategy and direction of the Florida governor’s presidential campaign.

Yet Seidel said in the press call that Haley was the “strongest” non-Trump candidate regarding why the group didn’t endorse DeSantis. “He’s been a strong advocate for many of the policies that we fight for every day, but all of the evidence that we’ve already shared on this call points to the fact that Nikki Haley is the strongest candidate in this race, and that’s why we decided to support her.”

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