Haley blames Republican losses in Colorado on Trump during stop in metro Denver

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley of South Carolina made a midday campaign stop in Colorado on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, at Centennial Airport. Colorado voters go the polls next Tuesday in the GOP primary.

Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and current Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley went after GOP front-runner Donald Trump hard during a campaign stop in Centennial Tuesday, including attacks on his age, his electability and his “temper tantrums.” 

Hayley described Colorado, the final leg of a three-state sprint, as a perfect example of how Republicans are failing to win general elections under Trump. 

“(In Michigan) they've lost the governor's mansion, They've lost the state house, they've lost the state senate since Donald Trump was president. Then, we went to Minnesota. Same thing,” Haley said. “Now, I'm in Colorado. And I'm looking at the fact that no Republican has gotten over 45 percent statewide since Donald Trump was president.”

Hayley also accused Trump of turning the Republican Party into a tool for his own success. 

“The (Republican National Committee) was always about winning races up and down the ticket,” Haley said. “They've made it very clear that now the RNC is only about Donald Trump.” She also said the party shouldn’t pay for Trump’s legal fees.

“If there is a resolution on whether the RNC funds are going to pay for legal fees, we deserve to see how every National Committeeman votes on that resolution,” she said.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Ravi Sing, center, poses for a snapshot with Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley.

Hayley spoke for about 30 minutes to a crowd of more than 500 people in a hangar at Wings Over the Rockies. While flanked by vintage aircraft, she claimed Trump had pulled the GOP away from traditional conservative values, including tighter fiscal policy and a “peace through strength” approach to foreign policy. 

Today’s visit comes a week before Colorado’s presidential primary on Super Tuesday, where 16 states and territories in total will host presidential primaries or caucuses. It also came as voters in Michigan went to the polls in their primary contests, resulting in another lopsided Trump victory. (President Joe Biden won the Democratic contest in Michigan.)

Haley has lost the first 5 GOP contests and trails Trump significantly in the polls. But she has vowed to stay in the race through next week. When voters began chanting “don’t quit,” Hayley told them “Alright y’all, I'm still standing here.”

“Yes, did Donald Trump win? I give him that. But he lost 40 percent of the vote,” she said, referring to the results in South Carolina’s primary. “You can't win a general election if you can't get 40 percent of Republican primary voters. You just can't.”

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Floyd Merenkov, left, and Sharon Merenkov arrive to see Nikki Haley.

Haley claimed she stood a better chance against Biden and cited a Marquette Poll that puts her 18 points above Biden in Wisconsin, a key swing state. She claimed that level of support would not only give Republicans the White House, but control over state legislatures in states like Colorado. Hayley also called out the Trump allies for asking the RNC to declare him the presumptive nominee before the primary season was over.

“We don’t anoint kings,” she said. “We have elections. We give people choices.”

Tuesday’s stump speech was a continuation of Haley’s escalating attacks on Trump, as she continues to lose races against him. Much of her remarks sounded like a bullet point list of what Haley saw as Trump’s missteps — as both president and candidate — and how she would approach them differently.

On immigration, Haley cited Denver’s recent struggles to shelter and support new immigrants. She called for more deportations and a return of the ’Remain in Mexico’ policy. She also said Congress should have worked to pass a recent immigrant bill passed by the Senate

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley speaks to supporters.

“Congress had a border bill,” she said, “but what happened? Donald Trump comes in and says don't pass anything until after the general election. And Congress went home on vacation for two weeks. We can't wait.”

On national security, Haley blamed the Biden Administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 as a reason for the destabilization in Ukraine and the Middle East. She also called out recent comments from Trump on Russia and NATO, where the former president said he’d encourage Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade European allies that have not paid their NATO dues. 

“Donald Trump's going to side with a tyrant who kills his political opponents. That means Donald Trump is going to side with a thug where half a million people have died or been wounded because of Russian invading Ukraine,” Haley said. “That means Donald Trump is going to side with a madman.”

“Moral clarity matters. We need a president who understands the number one job is to prevent war, period,” she said.

On the war in Ukraine, Haley supported sending Kyev more weapons and supplies, claiming that would help prevent a larger war — a position that pits her against a growing number of Republicans.

On fiscal policy, she blamed both Trump and Biden for the current national debt while calling for a “balanced budget” at the federal level. 

Haley also called for members of congress to be enrolled in the VA for their healthcare — a crowd favorite — in an effort to improve the system for veterans. 

“Congress has become the most privileged nursing home in the country,” she declared, one of her more popular lines on the campaign trail.