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Nikki Haley gets AFP endorsement from billionaire Charles Koch, an anti-Trump businessman

Washington, Nov 30, 2023- Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley received the strongest push to her campaign for 2024 GOP nomination with the anti –Trump political network led by billionaire Charles Koch endorsing her, thus pitching as the best alternative to a legally beleaguered Trump and beating Ron DeSantis and Chris Christie, days ahead of the Iowa and New Hampshire voting.

The Koch’s endorsement of Nikki Haley for GOP nomination as the Republican candidate for 2024 presidency was made in a memo to grassroots activists via the network’s advocacy arm Americans for Prosperity (AFP) on Tuesday, backed by a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in states that hold early primary contests and several that vote on Super Tuesday beginning this week, media reports said.

“When we announced our decision to engage in our first ever Republican presidential primary, we made it clear that we’d be looking for a candidate who can turn the page on our political dysfunction — and win. It’s clear that candidate is Nikki Haley,” Emily Seidel, senior advisor to AFP Action, said in a statement.

She said “we not only want a candidate who can lead, but who can also win, and that’s Nikki Haley”.

“Nikki Haley represents a new generation of leadership and offers a bold, positive vision for our future. AFP Action is proud to be endorsing her and we will be doing everything we can to help make her the next US President, Seidel added.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis , with former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, is among the worst critics of Trump for presidency, but both have now lost the traction in the their campaign with Nikki Haley emerging as the strongest rival to Trump, with just 50 days to go for the GOPs primary races leaving DeSantis, Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy way behind.

Haley represents the new face of the Republicans on both domestic and foreign policies with her muscular aggressive stance reflecting the aspirations of the youth between 18 to 40 for a generational change in leadership as they reject both Biden and Trump for presidency, considered too old for the post with questions hanging over their ability to govern with declining cognitive abilities, media reports said.

“This was not an easy decision for AFP. Governor DeSantis has been a good ally and a champion of many policy positions of AFP and the state of Florida,” a political source told CNN.

“But Nikki Haley also was an early ally, going back to the Tea Party movement when she ran for Governor of South Carolina, and is also aligned on the issues.”

Donors to AFP, a political arm of the larger Koch network, had pushed the deep-pocketed group to take a call to use their resources to boost a preferred candidate sooner rather than later. The donors push for an alternative to Trump gained traction after former Vice- President Mike Pence and Senator Tim Scott, R-S.C. dropped out shrinking the field of candidates for the GOP nomination. And DeSantis, Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy lagging in the polls.

“I’m honoured to have the support of Americans for Prosperity Action, including its millions of grassroots members all across the country,” Haley said in a statement after the announcement.

“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 spiralling debt. We have a country to save, and I’m grateful to have AFP Action by our side.”

The network had already dug deep into the Republican primary with advertisements targetting former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. An endorsement brings with it lucrative financial backing and an early state operation that rivals the infrastructure of the Republican National Committee. It’s known in Republican circles as a turnkey operation — as soon as they decide, AFP can kick into gear, NBC said.

The group has spent around $4 million on ads so far this cycle (digital, satellite and radio), according to AdImpact tracking. Americans for Prosperity Action, a super PAC, raised over $70 million in the first half of the year, according to Federal Election Commission records.

NBC network said the AFP endorsement offers a formidable operational advantage, with a grassroots network embedded in primary states and years of door-to-door canvassing know-how.

“If Nikki doesn’t have a robust operation in, say, Florida, which she doesn’t, she can turn to AFP,” a source said.

“AFP will become her canvassing operation and can rival the Trump and DeSantis campaigns.”

The general political thinking is that the endorsed candidate could take one or two states and make themselves viable if Trump is convicted in one of the legal cases against him and therefore incapable of service. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the indictments against him in Georgia, Florida, Manhattan and Washington D.C.

One conviction which almost seems certain that could hurt Trump financially and politically is the trial in March 2024, when Judge Arthur Engoron will formally convict him in the $250 million civil tax fraud trial and cancel his business certificates in New York. That will turn away both GOP supporters sitting on the fence, Republican voters still undecided and independents constituting the swing votes, and investors and donors shying away from him to do any business, reports said.

Trump can still contest for the presidency even if he is convicted in the Georgia elections subversion case and the conspiracy to overturn the election verdict in 2021 in Washington D.C.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a time when money in a presidential race mattered less,” said a Republican source to CNN, who is not connected to either campaign.

“That’s why the Koch efforts have always been about lifting someone else in the primary.”

For months, DeSantis was the most electable alternative to Trump, as a popular swing-state Governor backed by a super PAC flush with cash. That notion disappeared entering the fall as the Governor dipped in the polls and struggled to regain momentum.

After signalling the group could get behind DeSantis, AFP began “reserving the right to look at someone else” following the first two debate performances and disappointing polling for DeSantis, who had been their top choice for a while, according to informed sources.

In New Hampshire, two recent polls show Haley rising to second place and ahead of DeSantis by double digits. A Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa poll published at the end of October shows Haley and DeSantis tied for second place at 16 per cent.

“It’s not just a horse race,” one of these people said, and that an array of factors have weighed on AFP’s decision.

Leadership at Americans for Prosperity has said it is focused on electability.

In a February memo, CEO Emily Seidel said AFP Action wants a candidate not only who can lead, but “who can win”. (Agency)

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