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Never underestimate Nikki Haley. I did, and I got trounced.

January 05, 2024
| The Post and Courier by Gresham Barrett

Donald Trump is going to lose in South Carolina — to Nikki Haley.

I say that as someone who lost in South Carolina — to Nikki Haley.

The year was 2010. I’d thrown my hat into the ring for governor. It was a big field with several well-known Republicans running, but Nikki Haley — then a state representative from Lexington — wasn’t on anyone’s likely winner list.

We were wrong. We underestimated Nikki Haley — just like people did when she ran against a 30-year Republican incumbent for the state Legislature, and just like her opponents have been underestimating her in the current presidential campaign. She didn’t let the naysayers get to her. She put her head down and went to work. She is one of the hardest working candidates I have ever met.

Haley is principled, persuasive and plain-spoken. She tells hard truths, answers hard questions and takes on the hardest fights — the fights that matter most to the people of South Carolina. In our race, it was transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. Haley owned those issues, and she broke down complicated spending topics in simple, everyday terms.

In the end, Nikki Haley was both the immovable object and an unstoppable force. She came from way behind, and in the final months leading up to the primary, her momentum grew — and grew some more, just like it’s doing now. She ended up winning the runoff with 65% of the vote, and a few months later, the people of South Carolina elected her governor.

Although it stung at the time, I can now say I’m glad Nikki Haley won. She was the right leader for our state, transforming our economy and uniting us in difficult times. Now she’s the right person for America.

First, she has to get through the candidate many people assume is going to win the S.C. primary: Donald Trump.

Trump should be afraid. History is repeating itself.

Haley is doing the same thing she did in 2010. She’s showing up and proving she’s the hardest worker of the bunch. She jumped into the race early because she didn’t need to wait and see what the other candidates decided, and right after she announced, she hit the campaign trail in New Hampshire and Iowa, holding town halls and answering voters’ questions. She didn’t get distracted by the media’s narrative or the latest fights on social media.

Her message is principled and strong. She hasn’t wavered in her support of our allies or backed away from criticizing Republicans — including Donald Trump — for adding $8 trillion to the national debt in just four years: nearly as much as Barack Obama added in eight years. The irresponsible spending played a role in the runaway inflation that’s still crippling families, and it’s holding us back at the exact time we need to move forward to hold China accountable.

Trump is taking South Carolina for granted, and Nikki Haley is taking South Carolina seriously, like she always has. She led our state in a better direction for six years. She stood with South Carolinians during our best and worst moments, and now she will lead our country toward a brighter future. I couldn’t be more honored to support her for president.

All she has to do is beat Trump in the primaries, especially South Carolina’s on Feb. 24. After that, she’s a shoo-in against the failed Joe Biden in November, while Donald Trump is not.

Can she get that far? Of course she can. Take it from someone who learned the lesson the hard way: Never underestimate Nikki Haley — even against Donald Trump.

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