Republican presidential candidate and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley stepped down following Super Tuesday on March 5. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Why Nikki Haley’s Supporters Stood by Her

For some Americans she represented “hard work while remaining ethical, fierce advocacy without being a bully, and individual liberties without scandal.”


March 6, 2024

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Nikki Haley suspended her campaign for president this morning. “I have no regrets,” she said in a speech in Charleston, S.C. “And while I will no longer be a candidate, I will not stop using my voice for the things I believe in.” Haley did not endorse Donald Trump in her speech.

A lot of people pinned a lot of hope on Haley. And they put their money behind her candidacy: the former South Carolina governor raised $24 million in the fourth quarter of 2023 alone.

It was clear for sometime before she dropped out that Haley was not going to beat Trump. So why did many of her donors keep writing checks even after the writing was on the wall? The Free Press’s Joe Nocera, who profiled Haley in New Hampshire back in January, made a few calls to find out. 

Going into Super Tuesday, one thing was clear: Nikki Haley was going to lose most, if not all, of the 13 Republican primaries to Donald Trump.

Of course, all the donors to the SFA Fund, the Nikki Haley super PAC, knew this as well. As her quest became ever-more quixotic, some big backers, like AFP Action, a Charles Koch vehicle, pulled their funding. But many others stuck with her; Haley raised an impressive $16.5 million just in January.

So why didn’t they abandon her? Calling around on Tuesday, the answer I heard from a handful of donors was that she was reminding the country of what kind of person a Republican candidate ought to be. And that her campaign was so important for the country that they were happy to contribute even though, in political terms, it was a lost cause.

“I think she is illustrating what a Republican standard-bearer can and should be,” said Jay Lefkowitz, a lawyer and former George W. Bush aide. He added, “I think she should stay in the race, even after Super Tuesday. You never know. If Trump is forced to file for bankruptcy or convicted of a crime, or has serious health issues, that could change everything.”

Mina Nguyen, a financial executive, described herself as “proud” to support Haley. “Nikki provides a much-needed voice in this country, one that reflects my own as a daughter of refugees who believes in America’s great values,” she said in an email. “I think it’s important for America to see that there can be a candidate who represents hard work while remaining ethical, fierce advocacy without being a bully, and individual liberties without scandal.”

And Cliff Asness, the founder of the hedge fund AQR, put it very simply: “Doing what you think is right is almost always worth it, succeed or fail, and this is no exception.”

Haley’s merry band of disgruntled Republicans may be in the minority within their party, but they could yet play a decisive role come November, if they stay home and coalesce around a third-party candidate, or even vote for Biden. 

Joe Nocera is a columnist for The Free Press, and the co-author of The Big Fail. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @opinion_joe.

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