HomeLearning CenterNikki Haley Made Strides for Women in Politics. There’s Just One Problem: Trump

Nikki Haley Made Strides for Women in Politics. There’s Just One Problem: Trump

Originally published by Natalie Allison for Politico

Nikki Haley has already gone further than any Republican woman before her who ran for president.

For months, she has joked about the high heels she wears, and, without fail, blasts a post-rally soundtrack of “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Sheryl Crow’s “Woman in the White House.” In every early nominating and Super Tuesday state, Haley has established a “Women for Nikki” chapter — groups of female volunteers who urge their friends and neighbors, including those who are not ordinarily politically active, to get behind the former South Carolina governor.

But with Haley running behind Donald Trump by double digits in New Hampshire, and only polling about even with him among women — she is also testing the limits of how much voters care.

“It was bad enough, they elected him the first time,” said Thalia Floras, a 61-year-old Haley supporter from Nashua, who changed her voter registration this fall from Democrat to undeclared. “But this time, they know what they got. And they’re doing it again.”

As Haley has campaigned here over the past week, a galling reality has settled in on supporters who saw her candidacy as a step forward for women in politics. Not only was she trailing. She was losing to the man who famously won despite his “grab ‘em” and “blood coming out of her wherever” remarks in 2016 — and seems to be cruising to the nomination even after a jury found him liable for sexual assault and defamation, accusations Trump has denied.

“That’s my biggest fear, that he gets in. The way he has spoken about women …” Kathy Kelley, a 69-year-old retired educator from Hudson, said at a Haley event over the weekend, trailing off and shaking her head. “I still can’t watch Billy Bush.”

Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and former U.N. ambassador, is unique among women in even making it to New Hampshire in a competitive position. The handful of Republican women who ran for president before her weren’t real players in the state’s contest.

In 2016, Carly Fiorina earned just 4 percent in the New Hampshire primary, after finishing seventh-place in Iowa and netting a single delegate. Michele Bachmann dropped out of the race after coming in sixth place in the Iowa caucuses in 2012, failing to earn any delegates. In the 2000 GOP primary, Elizabeth Dole suspended her campaign before competing in any of the early nominating states.

And Haley is highlighting her womanhood. On Sunday, moments after learning Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had ended his presidential bid, she sketched out the dynamics of the Republican race in the simplest of terms: a fight, she said, between “one fella and one lady.”

Then, playing to her gender, she told supporters in a Seabrook restaurant, “May the best woman win.”

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