Photo of Nikki Haley

Haley Campaign Press Release - MOFFETT: Nikki Haley, the Presidency and 'Je Ne Sais Quoi'

November 20, 2023

NH Journal by Mike Moffett

Something one appreciates while serving as a New Hampshire legislator involves hearing from people. I especially enjoyed that part of being in the State House mix—before my phone stopped ringing after I lost an election in 2018.

Now, in 2023, it's especially validating for us current New Hampshire solons to be courted by presidential candidates. While our votes count the same as everyone else's apparently, there is a cache—not cash—associated with serving as a state representative/House committee chair.

We naturally love our FITN New Hampshire Primary while remaining fully aware that after January 23, the Granite State largely drops off the political radar screen.

C'est la vie. (French for "That's life.")

Anyway, shortly after Donald Trump made his very early presidential announcement over a year ago, over 50 of my GOP House colleagues quickly jumped on the Trump Train with early endorsements.

But not me.

My strong sense was that we desperately need a fresh new face in the White House—a face not belonging to Trump or Joe Biden.

But to whom?

Sen. Tim Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis's fresh faces stood out. I was privileged to be able to meet and speak directly with each. I thought either could be a good commander-in-chief. I still believe that. But an "intangible" was missing.

Call it Je ne sais quoi. (French for "a quality not easy to describe.")

Of course, there were others in the candidate mix—including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. I attended a small Haley event in May at the Laconia American Legion. Knowing that, by contrast, a Trump event guaranteed thousands of attendees, I gave her points for putting herself out there at such a remote Granite State venue.

Haley struck all the right chords, although stump speeches are always well delivered. Still, she stayed until every question was answered and every selfie was taken. And her answers seemed genuine, thoughtful, and substantive.

She was polling around 3 percent at the time, and I thought she had little chance. But her words resonated.

"I've had tough primaries and tough general elections. I'm always the underdog. And I always win. Don't underestimate me."

I liked that. But could this relatively soft-spoken woman hang with the big dogs like Trump when political push came to shove? The debates/forums would provide answers. Even if Trump didn't show up—which he didn't.

And by all accounts, Haley shined.

In the second debate, Scott indicated he had a tough question for Haley.

"Bring it, Tim!"

The Clemson grad and former United Nations ambassador clearly had some "fire in her belly."

I liked that.

And in the third debate, after Vivek Ramaswamy went low, Haley's rejoinder sealed his fate. I liked that, too.

I again saw Haley in person at the Merrimack VFW in August. Unlike the May event, this larger venue was packed. Haley was now polling closer to 10 percent. The national media were there. (I was interviewed by a Politico reporter.) Gov. Chris Sununu introduced Haley. And she shined.

Afterward, Haley took questions again and stayed as long as she could before departing for another event in Manchester. (As John McCain earlier did to great effect, Haley's made scores of appearances all over N.H.) Her response to the inevitable abortion question was amazing. Making no apologies for her pro-life positions, as a woman, she spoke to this issue in ways no man ever could. Her descriptions of legislative realities and her respect for federalism and our various state processes were wonderful civics lessons—as well as acknowledgments of American Realpolitik (German for politics that acknowledge both pragmatism and ideology).

But Haley's best moment involved an answer to a question from a man asking how she might unite us. Rather than speaking to the question hypothetically, the candidate answered by citing actual experience—her response to the Charleston, S.C., mass murders that occurred at a Black church where a racist shooter killed nine churchgoers. Haley's leadership then helped avert racial violence on the one hand while also succeeding in removing the Confederate flag from a place of honor at the S.C. Capitol—without alienating a powerful and historic Palmetto State constituency.

Merrimack VFW attendees were in tears.

By November, Haley's numbers approached 20 percent while DeSantis' was in single digits—after Scott had dropped out. I then studied more Haley history. Her legislative and executive experiences were impressive. Her foreign policy experience at the U.N. set her apart. But could she stand up to all that was sure to be thrown at her by the Trump camp as she became an increasing threat?

Haley's 2010 gubernatorial campaign provided answers. Despite vile attacks in the primary and general elections, Haley persevered and prevailed.


"I've had tough primaries and tough general elections. I'm always the underdog. And I always win. Don't underestimate me."

I mentioned to colleagues that she increasingly seemed like someone I could endorse. I was advised that DeSantis and Trump each had scores of legislative endorsements. Haley had zero. It was also pointed out that my making an endorsement could alienate important people and that I might subsequently be punished—or "primaried." I could lose my House seat.

I thought back to Haley's earlier response to Scott.

"Bring it on."

So, I'm proud to be the first legislator to endorse Governor/Ambassador Nikki Haley.

The N.H. Primary is not that far off. It'll be a busy time for those seeking nominations as well as for their supporters. But as Haley says, "It'll be fun."

I like that.

A very historic triomphe might be in the works for January 23.

(French for "victory!")

Nikki Haley, Haley Campaign Press Release - MOFFETT: Nikki Haley, the Presidency and 'Je Ne Sais Quoi' Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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