Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley launched her campaign for the White House on Wednesday with a call for generational change in Washington and a rejection of what she derided as “identity politics” dividing the United States.
And she wasted no time challenging her only official rival: former President Donald Trump.
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Speaking from the historic coastal city of Charleston, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador struck themes intended to resonate with the Republican voters she will try to win away from Trump.
She blasted President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats as too liberal and insisted there’s not a problem with racism in the U.S. as they contend.
She also took a shot at both Biden and Trump, and called for “mandatory mental competency tests” for politicians over 75 years old. Trump will be 78 and Biden 82 if sworn into office again in January, 2025.
“In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire,” Haley said.
“We’ll have term limits for Congress and mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”
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Haley, who is 51, took another dig at Trump and said Republicans lost the popular vote in recent elections because they “failed to win the confidence of a majority of Americans.” The solution, she said, was to “put your trust in a new generation.”
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“America is not past its prime,” she told a crowd of several hundred people gathered near Charleston’s visitors center. “It’s just that our politicians are past theirs.”
Trump has had an up-and-down relationship with Haley from the early days of the 2016 campaign through her time in his administration.
Trump shot back on his TruthSocial app and claimed he only appointed Haley as his U.N. ambassador as a “favor to the people of South Carolina.”
“The greatest thing Nikki Haley did for our Country, and the Great State of South Carolina, was accepting the position of United Nations Ambassador so that the incredible then Lieutenant Governor, Henry McMaster, could be Governor of South Carolina, where he has done an absolutely fantastic job,” Trump said. “That was a big reason why I appointed Nikki to the position—It was a favor to the people I love in South Carolina!”
While Haley is the first major Republican to officially challenge Trump, she will hardly be the last. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are among those expected to launch campaigns in the coming months. Haley’s fellow South Carolinian Sen. Tim Scott is also weighing a White House bid.
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Haley leaned into the national security credentials she said she gained at the U.N. Among the speakers who introduced her was the mother of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was imprisoned in North Korea and died shortly after his release.
In her remarks, Haley criticized Biden’s presiding over the chaotic withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, North Korea’s launch of missiles, heightened Russian aggression, and an emboldened China.
“Today our enemies think that the American era has passed,” she said. “They’re wrong.”
As the presidential primary season comes into focus, the biggest question is whether anyone in the field will be able to push Trump from his position at the top of a party that he transformed with his first campaign in 2016. Though he enjoys enduring support with some Republican voters, he’s been attacked by establishmente officials for the GOP’s lackluster performance in last year’s midterms.
As in 2016, a crowded field could work to Trump’s advantage, allowing him to march to the nomination while his opponents divide support among themselves.
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In an interview with Fox News Digital, Trump said he was glad Haley is running.
“I want her to follow her heart — even though she made a commitment that she would never run against who she called the greatest president of her lifetime,” he said.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article