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Inside the Trump Campaign’s Plan to Take Down Nikki Haley

“The difference between her and DeSantis is she’s an also-ran. Donald Trump doesn’t need to fear her. He’s gonna toy with her.”

Nikki Haley’s decision to become the first Republican to jump into the 2024 race against Donald Trump has finally given the Trump campaign an official foe. And even if Haley has little interest in slamming Trump—four Trump advisers told The Daily Beast they think Haley’s presidential run is more about running for vice president—Trump’s campaign appears eager to slam Haley.

With the former UN ambassador telegraphing her presidential announcement, the Trump campaign is champing at the bit to finally vanquish an enemy after a sleepy first few months. Those familiar with the discussions on how to handle Trump’s first 2024 primary opponent see Haley as a weak candidate offering the former president a chance to settle a score, as well as an opportunity to experiment with new tactics.

Trump previewed that strategy last week when he posted on Truth Social that “Nikki has to follow her heart, not her honor. She should definitely run!”

In Haley, Trump has a weak opponent he can easily dispense with. Polls have shown Haley polling around 3 percent, compared to Trump’s 48 percent. A rival that Trump can crush early—like Alabama football going against Austin Peay in September—could allow Trump to show voters that he’s still a force in the GOP. However, there are two schools of thought about how Haley is most useful to Trump.

Some in Trump’s orbit see a chance to bury Haley early and often, using her campaign like a crash test dummy to demonstrate Trump’s dominance for anyone else willing to step in. But Haley could also be useful in splitting the Republican primary vote and allowing Trump to cruise through the primaries with his strong base of voters who aren’t going anywhere.

Still, for others, Haley’s lack of a perceived threat will allow Trump to attempt something akin to “coalition building” during the primary.

“In 2016, you come at the king, you’re gonna get wrecked,” an adviser who speaks with Trump told The Daily Beast. “In 2024, I think there’s going to be a different kind of Trump on display. He’ll be all 2016 on guys like DeSantis, but Haley, who had a respectful conversation with him? He will deal with her in a 2024 fashion.”



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