“You’re making fun of one veteran, you’re making fun of all veterans,” Haley said on Fox News on Monday.
She twice called Trump’s remarks — in which he asked where her husband was — “disgusting.” During a campaign stop in her state Monday, she called Trump’s conduct “unbecoming of a president.”
Few, if any, see Haley’s new offensive as having a tangible impact on the outcome of the Republican primary. Haley did not return to comments she made throughout the GOP contest that she would support Trump if he were the party’s nominee.
But the former U.N. ambassador’s aggressive shift portends a more acrimonious end to this primary process — one in which it could prove difficult for Trump to mend relations.
It also served as a stark reminder that Trump’s chaotic approach is unlikely to change, even in a moment of peril for President Joe Biden.
Just days before the latest GOP primary blowout, the special counsel’s report on Biden’s handling of classified materials was released, portraying the president as an elderly man with a poor memory. But rather than deviate from that news cycle — beneficial as it may be for the general election, Trump used his Saturday rally to invoke Maj. Michael Haley, deployed to the Horn of Africa for the Guard South Carolina National Assembly – and welcome a Russian attack on a NATO country that has failed to meet its defense spending goals.
These comments caused an international shockwave, raising the specter that the next president would welcome the dissolution of the most important transatlantic alliance. And it served as a cold reminder to Republicans that Trump acts mostly on impulse.
“He can’t help it,” said Jason Roe, a Republican strategist and former executive director of the Michigan State Republican Party. “Biden is getting hammered, and all he should do is sit back and let him self-immolate.” »
But Trump, Roe said, “can’t stand not being the center of the conversation.”
Steven Cheung, Trump’s spokesperson, accused Haley of “burning all her Democratic money on fire for a vanity project to position herself as the candidate of the Never Trumpers.”
“There has been no greater fighter for our military than President Trump,” Cheung said in a statement to POLITICO. “Nikki ‘Birdbrain’ Haley likes to talk about her foreign policy skills, but kowtowing to China and advocating forever wars by sending our troops into unnecessary conflicts is the America Last policy she loves so much. President Trump continues to lead Haley by wide margins in every poll while saving resources to beat Crooked Joe Biden overall.
Trump’s time in elected politics has been filled with bluster, conspiracy theories and, more often than not, self-inflicted wounds. In each period in which he was praised for his discipline, he continued to stir up more controversy and chaos. His aides have long argued that, far from being a liability, it is his bold nature that attracts voters to the former president. Trump allies scoffed at the idea that Saturday night’s missives would complicate this moment of extreme peril for Biden.
“It’s pointless. No one cares besides the very few people who support Nikki and the media who are out to stir up whatever they can because this has been such a boring cycle,” a Republican strategist said from South Carolina, close to the Trump campaign and who was granted anonymity to speak freely.
But even if Trump’s remarks — and the controversy they sparked — don’t affect his standing in the primary, his fellow Republicans view them as problematic. And it’s not just because they urged Haley to stay in the race and go after Trump more directly – or because of the immense geopolitical repercussions they will have. That’s because, on a narrower level, they will shift the campaign debate away from Biden.
“His typically unruly message is coming back,” said Jason Shepherd, former GOP chairman in Georgia’s Cobb County. “He doesn’t have the ability to stay on task, which at this point beats Biden.” The same old Trump from 2016 and 2020 is coming out.”
Meridith McGraw contributed to this report.