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Haley Campaign Press Release - Nikki Haley Courts Iowans With the 'Hard Truths' in First Return Since GOP Debate

September 23, 2023

Des Moines Register by F. Amanda Tugade

GRAND MOUND, Iowa — Nikki Haley zeroed in on the "hard truths" while facing hundreds of potential caucusgoers during her first trip back to Iowa since her appearance at the Iowa State Fair in August.

At a town hall event Friday in Grand Mound, a small town in eastern Iowa, the Republican presidential hopeful told a packed crowd at Crystal Creek Enterprises just "how bad things are" right now in the U.S.

Haley's town hall was one of three events held at Crystal Creek, kicking off a two-day campaign swing in Iowa that closed with the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition banquet last weekend in West Des Moines.

"You don't have to turn on the news to feel it," she said, pacing the stage. "You feel it when you go to the grocery store. You feel it when you fill up your car with gas."

As Haley addressed an audience of 300-plus people, she spoke further about how rising inflation has made it harder for families to meet their basic needs, stated that Republicans share the blame for the growing national debt and cited problems with the U.S. education system long before the COVID-19 pandemic.

She also reaffirmed her stance on China, contending that Chinese entities are gobbling up acres of U.S. farmland and noting that a Chinese firm has for a decade owned the nation's largest pork producer — Smithfield Foods. Headquartered in Virginia, Smithfield Foods has packing facilities around the country, including in Iowa.

"Don't forget food security is national security," Haley advised.

Haley on the campaign trail has leaned into what she calls "hard truths," messages that some voters say resonate with them. They told the Register her calm demeanor and directness are her edge — traits they said separate her from a stacked GOP presidential field that includes her former boss, former President Donald Trump.

Haley, who was the governor of South Carolina, also served as United Nations ambassador during the Trump administration.

Des Moines resident Michael Fusaro called Haley's debate performance last month "no bull—-" and said that was the reason why he decided to travel nearly three hours to attend Haley's event in Grand Mound.

The 61-year-old described Haley as "straightforward" and said that he respects her for holding both Republicans and Democrats accountable for the trillions of dollars in federal debt.

When asked if he's voting for Haley for president, Fusaro said, "Yes, definitely over Trump. I'll be nice and leave it at that."

Clayton Melvin, 23, echoed a similar sentiment. Melvin, of DeWitt, said Haley is one of his top choices for president and likes that "she's willing to say things." That includes Haley's push for mental competency tests for presidents and other politicians over the age of 75.

"As a young person, that's kind of ironic to say, but I think it is important," Melvin said. "It's important to know that you have people in Washington who may be not performing at their best and making decisions that affect all of us. She's willing to speak her mind on issues that are controversial but needed."

Other voters who met Haley Saturday at another town hall event in West Des Moines said they were impressed by her debate performance and her work while at the U.N.

John Bielecki, who was one of roughly 150 people at Haley's town hall at Jethro's BBQ in West Des Moines, said he was hooked by Haley and found her relatable. They're both in their 50s — Bielecki is 56 and Haley is 51 — and have ties to South Carolina and military service.

Bielecki is a veteran, while Haley has spoken about her husband, Maj. Michael Haley, and his recent deployment.

"She's from South Carolina. I used to live in South Carolina, and I went to the Army out of South Carolina," Bielecki, of Ankeny, said. "I'm a combat veteran. I know what she's done in the state of South Carolina, and I know what she could do for our country."

He and Steve Johnson, a 32-year-old from West Des Moines, said Haley is a solid candidate with solid experience. Johnson said she's a "good alternative to Trump," who according to national polls remains the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Since the Aug. 23 Republican debate, Haley has climbed in national polls, knocking former Vice President Mike Pence out of fourth place. Pence had long polled fourth, behind Ohio biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

Though Haley has spent the last three weeks campaigning in South Carolina and New Hampshire, she has garnered more endorsements from Iowa politicians and business leaders, including state Rep. Shannon Latham and Dennis Murdock, the retired CEO of Central Iowa Power Cooperative.

State Rep. Austin Harris, who attended the events in Grand Mound, said the number of people who came to see Haley speaks volumes. Grand Mound has a population of about 600, and Haley pulled in more than 300 guests during harvest season — "not the greatest time for people to leave work."

"It really shows the momentum on the ground, the energy," Harris said.

During the town hall in Grand Mound, Haley candidly answered a question from an attendee who among many things asked her to "break the base" and speak on where she stood with Trump.

"I don't agree with Trump 100% of the time. I don't disagree with him 100% of the time. That's the same way I feel about my husband," she said, garnering laughs and applause from the crowd. "What I will always tell you is the truth."

She reiterated that Republicans, her opponents included, such as Trump and Pence, "spent (money) like drunken sailors, and I think our kids aren't going to forgive us for it." She also criticized Trump and other candidates such as DeSantis for minimizing the war in Ukraine to a "territorial dispute."

That's "incredibly wrong," she said, "and the reason is a win for Russia is a win for China."

On the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, Haley kept her answer short: Trump "thinks January 6 was a beautiful day. I think it was a terrible day. I hope that never happens again."

Haley stands firm on stance on abortion
Another one of Haley's "hard truths" is her position on abortion, which became the focus of her interview Saturday with Ralph Reed of the Faith & Freedom Coalition during the Iowa banquet.

Haley, who was among the 10 presidential contenders courting evangelicals Saturday night, has publicly said she's "unapologetically pro-life" but maintained that it would be difficult to implement a federal abortion ban. A ban like that would need a majority of the House, 60 Senate votes and a president's signature.

"We haven't had 60 Republicans (in the Senate) in over 100 years. We might have 45 pro-life senators," she told Reed. "So no Republican president can any more ban abortions than a Democrat president can ban those state laws."

Haley has been adamant about making sure this issue does not "demonize" people — but instead humanizes them. Sticking to her stump speech, she advocated for more conversations on adoption and not criminalizing women who have abortions.

"Tell people the truth. You go and put this ban of 15 weeks, and what does it do? It has people running from us," she said, her comments drawing some applause from the crowd. "What about if we got people running to us? Whatever we can do to get 60 Senate votes on, isn't that better than what we have now?

"If it's six weeks, that's great. If it's 15 weeks, that's great. If it's 20 weeks … it's going further than what we want, but guess what? We'll save more babies that way."

Fusaro told the Register that Haley's thoughts on abortion mirror his own. Fusaro said he falls somewhere down "the middle" — that he isn't exactly pro-life but isn't pro-choice either.

What he does know, he says, is that "every woman needs to have a choice out there."

Nikki Haley, Haley Campaign Press Release - Nikki Haley Courts Iowans With the 'Hard Truths' in First Return Since GOP Debate Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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