Trump’s ‘Achilles’ heel’? Haley’s refusal to drop out infuriates ex-president.

January 31, 2024

it was a moment for Donald Trump to be gracious, magnanimous—perhaps, even presidential. Instead he lashed out at his opponent’s clothes. “When I watched her in the fancy dress that probably wasn’t so fancy, I said, ‘What’s she doing? We won,’” he said of rival Nikki Haley in New Hampshire on Tuesday night, January 23, reports The Guardian.

Trump had just won the first primary election of 2024 and all but clinched the Republican nomination for U.S. president. Party leaders and campaign surrogates are now eager to banish Haley to irrelevance, move on from the primary, and unify against Democrats. They want Trump to pivot to an almost inevitable rematch with Democrat Joe Biden in November.

Yet the 77-year-old remains consumed with rage over Haley’s unwillingness to quit the race. His petulance offers a reminder of the unhinged behavior that turned off Independent voters in New Hampshire and could prove to be a liability in a head-to-head contest with Biden. It is also at odds with what is an unusually professional and disciplined campaign operation.

Wendy Schiller, a political scientist at Brown University in Rhode Island, said: “Donald Trump wants the race to be over and we see evidence of why that’s important for the Trump campaign from his speech, which was essentially a train wreck and exhibited all the worst tendencies of Donald Trump. It was an undisciplined Trump and this is what turns off independent voters.”

She added: “This is the Achilles’ heel for the Trump campaign and they know it. The sooner this gets wrapped up then he doesn’t have any more of those impromptu late-night speeches. Their worry is not that they’re not going to win the nomination; their worry is the damage that Trump having to respond to Haley will do in the general election with Independent voters.”

Indeed, according to The Guardian, Trump’s investment of emotion and energy in attacking Haley is wildly out of proportion for the minimal threat that Haley poses. He won the Iowa caucuses in a landslide—she was third—and beat her by double digits in New Hampshire. No other Republican candidate in history who won the first two contests has failed to clinch his party’s nomination. His dominance looks set to render the next five months of primaries irrelevant.

Newt Gingrich, a former House of Representatives speaker and ex-presidential candidate, said: “Trump’s best strategy is to assume he is the nominee and go straight at Biden and ignore Haley: Let her flounder around until

However, Haley’s tenacity has enraged Trump. He has branded her “birdbrain”. He has threatened to blacklist anyone who donates to her campaign. He has railed against her frequently on social media, writing: “Could somebody please explain to Nikki that she lost—and lost really badly. She also lost Iowa, BIG, last week. They were, as certain non-fake media say, ‘CRUSHING DEFEATS.’”

The insults and outbursts are a reminder of why Trump alienated moderate voters in the past. While his win in New Hampshire was historic, it also exposed general election vulnerabilities—showing him to be highly popular with Republicans but highly unpopular with Independents, who were allowed to take part in the Republican primary under the state’s rules.

There has never been such a wide gap between the Republican vote and the Independent vote in a New Hampshire Republican primary. According to CNN’s exit polls, Trump won Republican voters by 74% to 25%,; but Haley won Independents 58% to 39%.

Research contact: @guardian