(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump held a rally in South Carolina on Saturday, attacking his hometown rival Nikki Haley and mocking the absence of her husband, who is deployed overseas.
“Where is your husband? Oh, he’s far away. … What happened to your husband? Where? He’s gone,” Trump said at a rally in Conway, his first visit to the state this year.
Michael Haley deployed to Africa with the South Carolina Army National Guard in support of U.S. Africa Command, marking his second active duty overseas.
Late Saturday, Nikki Haley responded to Trump’s comments, saying, “If you make fun of a veteran’s service, you don’t deserve a driver’s license, let alone be president of the United States.”
“Donald, if you have something to say, please don’t say it behind my back; get on the debate stage and say it to my face,” he told the crowd in Gilbert, South Carolina.
Michael Haley made a rare response to the former president, tweeting a meme that read: “What’s the difference between humans and animals? “Animals will never allow the stupidest person to take the lead. ” Also mentioning Trump’s story in the title.
Notably, former first lady Melania Trump has not accompanied Trump to any public campaign events since he was announced as president-elect in November 2022, nor has she appeared with him at any of his events. in court.
Trump keeps calm in Republican race
Donald Trump’s staying power as the Republican front-runner has further emboldened him after a landslide victory in four contests for the presidential nomination. Several advisers say the former president and his campaign are more confident than ever that he will win enough delegates by mid-March to win the race just months before the Republican National Convention in July. Declaring him the true Republican candidate to run against former South Carolina Governor Haley. Trump campaign. CNN.
Trump visited South Carolina after a busy few days of travel. He appeared in Nevada on Thursday to declare victory in the state’s Republican caucuses, then traveled to Pennsylvania to address a friendly crowd at an NRA forum on Friday.
Trump made some positive developments Thursday, including giving away new campaign materials targeting President Joe Biden following the release of a scathing special counsel report. While the report did not recommend charges against Biden, it contained damning language about his mishandling of classified documents and raised concerns about his memory and age.
Also on Thursday, the Supreme Court appeared ready to side with Trump and reject Colorado’s attempt to declare him an insurrectionist and remove him from the state’s list of presidential candidates.
Haley insists she plans to continue campaigning in her home state’s Feb. 24 primary and beyond, inspired by her enduring fundraising prowess. But Trump and his team view the South Carolina primary as the place where they can deliver the final blow to their last major opponent.
That confidence is partly attributable to Trump’s continued success in internal and public polls, which have consistently shown him with a surprising lead over Haley at the national and state levels.
Optimism about the remaining 2024 primaries has led the Trump campaign to adopt a less aggressive approach in the South Carolina primary, especially compared to the intensity of his campaign and get-out-the-vote strategy in previously nominated states .
Unlike the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, where Trump and his campaign have been touring the states and spending millions of dollars on ads to counter his rivals, The schedule in South Carolina is relatively sparse.
Saturday’s campaign event in Conway, about 15 miles from Myrtle Beach, was Trump’s first visit to the state in 77 days. He plans to hold more campaign events in the state ahead of the Feb. 24 primary, but his team is taking a more relaxed approach to the campaign as they increasingly focus on the upcoming matchup with Biden. A rerun of the general election.
Trump’s advisers insist that doesn’t mean he’s taking South Carolina for granted.
“At the end of the day, we can’t take any status for granted. But we think this is a done deal,” a senior Trump adviser told CNN, referring specifically to South Carolina. state.
Haley opposes Trump’s influence in her own state
Aides say the Trump campaign’s efforts in South Carolina this year are also more sophisticated than during his first presidential bid in 2016, thanks in large part to their efforts in senior adviser Susie Wiles ) team built under leadership.
The campaign has staff in all 46 South Carolina counties, sending mailers promoting Trump’s candidacy and deploying top state legislators and surrogates, including Gov. Henry McMaster; U.S. Sen. Congressman Tim Scott, a former presidential rival; and several senior members of the state’s congressional delegation — attacked Haley in her own backyard.
“Nikki is persona non grata right now,” Justin Evans, Trump’s special projects director in South Carolina, told CNN. “Nikki represents the very republicanism that Trump is fighting against; the entire George Bush-Karl Rove faction of the party is represented by and represented by Nikki Haley. “This is To their last breath, they knew that if they lost, they would face an almost impossible task not only in this election, but in regaining some sort of footing within the party. “
Trump escalated his attacks on Haley in a speech on Saturday, calling her “brain dead” and saying he believed the former South Carolina governor would fail a cognitive test. Haley’s statement came hours after his campaign presented evidence of mental competency at a campaign event in Newberry, South Carolina. Haley, 52, questioned Trump’s mental health and called for mental competency tests for any politician over 75. Trump is 77 years old and Biden is 81 years old.
“The radical left Democrats want Nikki Haley because they know she’s easy to beat,” Trump said Saturday as he showed off his lead in polls.
The comments reflected the Trump campaign’s broader vision for him to quickly become the presumptive Republican nominee. According to multiple conversations with Trump advisers, they are eager to harness the full power of the Republican infrastructure, including that of the Republican National Committee, to begin turning in earnest toward a general election fight against Biden.
Hailey, for her part, seemed unaffected by the pressure. A day after losing to “none of these candidates” in Nevada’s nonbinding primary on Tuesday, he held fundraisers and rallies in California, one of several he plans to attend next month on Super Tuesday ” one state urged voters to pay attention.
In both public and private conversations, Haley has insisted that she does not plan to drop out of the race anytime soon and has said she is committed to running against Trump before Super Tuesday, March 5.
The former South Carolina governor has also stepped up his attacks on Trump in recent weeks, attacking his mental health and tying him to Biden as one of two “grumpy old men.”
Biden criticizes Trump for mocking Haley’s husband
President Joe Biden criticized former President Donald Trump for mocking the absence of Nikki Haley’s husband who was deployed overseas, saying Trump “wouldn’t know how to serve the country if he got slapped in the face.”
“The answer is Major Haley is overseas now, serving his country,” Biden said in “This would slap him in the face.”
Reporting by CNN’s Ebony Davis and Arlette Saenz