By Gram Slattery
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) – US Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley wants to send special forces to Mexico to root out drug cartels, double down on sending weapons to Ukraine and make sure China understands that “hell will have to pay” if it falls to Taiwan.
The former US ambassador to the United Nations stubbornly opposes the traditional political wisdom that foreign policy does not influence American voters in elections.
Despite scoring a single digit in polls for the Republican nomination, Haley is still fiercely focused on winning over voters, in large part by pushing her foreign policy vision into a party where isolationism is increasingly entrenched. got on the ground.
This is where Haley differs from many of the party’s other nine candidates for the presidential nomination. Her vision for a much more assertive US foreign policy is not just a plank in her campaign, but a big part of her pitch to voters to elect her as a candidate.
Haley acknowledged in an interview with Reuters this week that she preaches to a divided party, but said she sees her role as educating voters, rather than showing them that she already shared their views.
“If you go to my town halls, you’ll hear me talking about it, and the reason I’m talking about it is because I want Americans to have all the facts,” said Haley, who ranks fourth among Republicans in most polls.
“When Americans get the truth, when they get all these facts, they understand why I’m passionate about it, and why they should care,” said Haley, who served at the UN for two years. ambassador under former President Donald Trump.
In particular, Haley’s stance on military aid to Ukraine after the 2022 Russian invasion puts her at odds with much of her party’s base. About 52% of Republicans said in a Reuters/Ipsos poll in July that they are less likely to support a candidate who favors increased military aid to Ukraine.
The campaign is making a strategic bet, advisers said, that Haley’s full support for Ukraine will be more popular with voters who want to move past Trump than with the Republican Party, which is sweeping to the fore.
“Drop the Chips”
Haley said she is using her town halls to explain to voters that her staunch support for sending more military equipment to Ukraine is to make sure they have what they need to fight the Russians so that US troops there never have to be used again.
“I’m going to put it there and drop the chips wherever they can,” she said.
That position puts her in conflict with rivals, Republican frontrunner Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and technology entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
Haley’s advisers argue that the Republicans least supportive of military aid to Ukraine are more likely to be Trump supporters, so pandering to them is not a good tactic.
In a memo sent by the campaign to donors, which Reuters viewed, campaign manager Betsy Ankney cited comments made by DeSantis in March in which he dismissed the war in Ukraine as a “territorial dispute,” as an example of an adversary trying to appeal do on the most devoted Trump acolytes.
“Many of the people who most believe we shouldn’t support Ukraine will be your hard-nosed Trump voters, so they’ll never go with anyone else anyway,” said one adviser, who asked for anonymity.
“The vast majority of persuasive voters are what you might call ‘hawks’.”
At two New Hampshire town halls, Haley discussed at length Russia, China and Ukraine, as well as other American enemies, including Iran, Venezuela and China.
CALL TO ATTACK MEXICO DRUG CARTELS
In her interview with Reuters, she reiterated her willingness to send US special forces to Mexico — without the green light from the Mexican government — to attack drug cartels behind the smuggling of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which has caused drug-related deaths in the United States. fueled.
“Well, first you go to the Mexican government and say, you do it, or we do it, but you don’t wait,” she said.
As for China, she was no less willing to confront the world’s second-largest economy if it wanted to invade Taiwan, the democratically governed island that China claims as its own.
“We must let China know that hell will come if they touch Taiwan. So are we going to defend Taiwan? We will do whatever it takes to defend our friend,” Haley said.
Haley has been drawing more attention from Republican voters since the first Republican primary debate on Aug. 23, where she strongly emphasized the importance of confronting Russia and China. Her support has since doubled, according to polling averages, but still hangs around 7%.
At New Hampshire’s two town halls, attendees were divided on Haley’s foreign policy stances, illustrating the awkward position she’s in. Some attendees cited her support for Ukraine as the reason they supported her.
“I spent eleven years as a soldier in Europe. I know the threat there, and it will be devastating if (Russia) takes over Ukraine,” said Al Lepine, 75.
Others cited it as the very reason they were hesitant to vote for Haley.
“I think she’s a little bit pro-war,” said Mike Loftus, a 68-year-old retired engineer. “I think we shouldn’t get involved in all the conflicts around the world.”
(Reporting by Gram Slattery; editing by Grant McCool)