Photo of Nikki Haley

Remarks in Greenville, South Carolina: "Not Going Anywhere"

February 20, 2024

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you all for being here. It's another great day in South Carolina!

And we're hoping for an even better day on Saturday!

Early voting is underway. I have a quick reminder to all South Carolinians. In a general election, you're given a choice. In a primary, you make your choice.

Make sure you make the right choice! Make sure your voices are heard, today, tomorrow, and on Saturday!

Some of you—perhaps a few of you in the media—came here today to see if I'm dropping out of the race.

Well, I'm not. Far from it.

And I'm here to tell you why.

I'm running for president because we have a country to save. Since the start of my campaign, I've been focused on the real issues our country faces. The ones that determine whether America will thrive… or spiral out.

I'm talking about the millions of students who don't know how to read or do basic math. The families who can't afford groceries, much less a first home. The total lawlessness on our southern border.

I'm talking about the murders in our cities, the fentanyl on our streets, the children who've been killed in their mom's car by stray bullets.

And I'm talking about the American weakness that led to wars in Europe and the Middle East—and the urgent need to restore our strength, before war spreads and draws America further in.

These are the challenges I'm here to tackle.

But instead of focusing on how to make America stronger tomorrow, some people want to know if I'm going to cave today.

We've all heard the calls for me to drop out. We all know where they're coming from. The political elite. The party bosses. Their cheerleaders in the commentator world.

The argument is familiar. They say I haven't won a state. That my path to victory is slim. They point to the primary polls and say I'm only delaying the inevitable. Why keep fighting when the battle was apparently over after Iowa?

Look, I get it. In politics, the herd mentality is enormously strong. A lot of Republican politicians have surrendered to it. The pressure on them was too much. They didn't want to be left out of the club.

Of course, many of the same politicians who now publicly embrace Trump privately dread him. They know what a disaster he's been and will continue to be for our party. They're just too afraid to say it out loud.

Well, I'm not afraid to say the hard truths out loud. I feel no need to kiss the ring. And I have no fear of Trump's retribution. I'm not looking for anything from him. My own political future is of zero concern.

So, I hear what the political class says. But I hear from the American people too.

I've heard from a retired army medic who looked evil in the eye. When he says we're heading toward disaster—that American lives are on the line—he knows what he's talking about. He knows we can't afford more of the same. That's why he told me to "give 'em hell."

I've heard from a mom who promised to email me every day and does. She just wants a "return to normalcy." She wants me to keep running for the sake of her 4-year-old son. She hopes he'll see the "America she grew up in"—an America that's strong and proud and united in purpose.

And I've heard from a high-school student, who just last week came to hear me speak. She asked me to sign a note to her teacher explaining her absence. After growing up amid the chaos and anger of the last few years, she finally has hope that America will make it… if we make the right choice.

I'm constantly hearing from Americans like these—hundreds a day, thousands a week, and hundreds of thousands since I declared my candidacy. They see the same polls as me. But more importantly, they have the same belief as me. They believe in America. They believe America can do so much better—that we must do better. And they know when the country's future is on the line, you don't drop out. You keep fighting. In fact, you fight harder than ever.

That's why I refuse to quit. South Carolina will vote on Saturday. But on Sunday, I'll still be running for president. I'm not going anywhere.

I'm campaigning every day, until the last person votes, because I believe in a better America and a brighter future for our kids. Nothing good in life comes easy. I'm willing to take the cuts, the bruises, and the name calling. Because the only way you get to the blessing is by going through the pain.

Dropping out would be the easy route. I've never taken the easy route. I've been the underdog in every race I've ever run. I've always been David taking on Goliath. And like David, I'm not just fighting someone bigger than me. I'm fighting for something bigger than myself.

I'm used to people questioning my intentions, so I'll make a few things clear.

Some people used to say I was running because I really wanted to be Vice President. I think I've pretty well settled that question.

Other people say I'm trying to set up a future presidential run. How does that even work?

If I was running for a bogus reason, I would have dropped out a long time ago. The rest of the fellas already did that. They have their own plans. I don't judge them. But I'm still here. I'm fighting for what I know is right. And I don't care what the party leaders and political elites want. I'll keep fighting until the American people close the door.

That day is not today. And it won't be Saturday. Not by a long shot.

The presidential primaries have barely begun. Just three states have voted. Three. That's it. After this weekend, we'll be at four. That's not a lot. In the 10 days after South Carolina, another 21 states and territories will vote.

People have a right to have their voices heard. And they deserve a real choice, not a Soviet-style election where there's only one candidate and he gets 99% of the vote. We don't anoint kings in this country. We have elections. And Donald Trump, of all people, should know we don't rig elections!

Americans of every belief and background are tired of our national mess. They don't want more chaos and craziness. They worry about a national collapse.

If I weren't in the race, we'd be reading the exact same story every day until November 5. There would be widespread reports of Americans suffering from a bad case of "Biden-Trump fatigue." And it would be true. A stunning 70% of the country doesn't want a Biden-Trump rematch. The majority of Americans don't just dislike one candidate. They dislike both.

As a country, we've never seen such dissatisfaction with the leading candidates. We've never had so many Americans mired in pessimism and division. We still have a chance to restore their faith. I will fight as long as that chance exists.

Now, I know what Donald Trump is saying. He wants an election with no opponent. But that's not what voters are saying. Despite being a de facto incumbent, Donald Trump lost 49% of the vote in Iowa. In New Hampshire, Trump lost 46% of the vote. That's not good. We're talking about almost half our voters. What does it say about an incumbent who is losing nearly half his party? It spells disaster in November. We shouldn't silence these voters, like Trump wants. They have the right to keep speaking out.

Trump sees this. That's why he and his allies are now trying a different tack. They're saying I'm helping Joe Biden by staying in.

Let's unpack that for a second.

First thing's first: Joe Biden is doing more damage to himself than any Republican could ever do. Every time he opens his mouth, he sounds like his mind is closing up shop. The Democrats are getting weaker by holding a coronation for Biden. Republicans will get stronger through a vigorous competition.

We have plenty of time to hash this out. If the race ended today, we'd have the longest general election in history. There are still eight and a half months before Election Day. Do we really want to spend every day from now until November watching America's two most disliked politicians duke it out?

No sane person wants that.

But there's another reason Trump is wrong.

At the end of the day, the only candidate who's helping Joe Biden is Donald Trump, because Trump is the only Republican Biden can beat.

The Democrats know it. They don't even try to conceal their glee at the prospect of running against Trump. They want to win—so they want the guy they've already beaten time and again.

Trump knows it too, but he won't admit it. True to form, he's taking out his anger on others. He's getting meaner and more offensive by the day. He's trying to bully me and anyone who supports me. He says they'll be barred from MAGA—permanently. That's not the way you win elections.

Well, I've dealt with bullies my entire life. They don't intimidate me. They only motivate me further. And I've never met a bully I couldn't take on.

There are also those who try to paint me as, quote, "Never Trump." That's not who I am. Never have been. I supported Trump in 2016 and 2020. I was proud to serve America in his Cabinet. My purpose has never been to stop Trump at all costs.

Like most Americans, I have a handful of serious concerns about the former President. But I have countless serious concerns about the current president.

Joe Biden has turned our country upside down. It's not normal for millions of migrants to illegally cross our border without being stopped. It's not normal for our schools to be more focused on gender pronouns than reading and math. It's not normal to have skyrocketing prices and soaring crime. And it's not normal to have wars raging in Europe and the Middle East.

All of that is on Joe Biden. But he's not the only one who's replaced normalcy with chaos. Donald Trump has done that, too.

It's not normal to insult our military heroes and veterans. It's not normal to spend fifty million dollars in campaign donations on personal court cases. It's not normal to threaten the people who back your opponent. And it's not normal to call on Russia to invade NATO countries. Donald Trump has done all that and more in just the last month.

Look, I've said it many times -- I think Donald Trump was the right president at the right time. But times change—and so has Trump. He's gotten more unstable and unhinged. He spends more time in courtrooms than on the campaign trail. He refuses to debate. He's completely distracted. And everything is about him. He's so obsessed with his own demons from the past, he can't focus on delivering the future Americans deserve.

We have two hugely flawed candidates in Biden and Trump. Americans know it. They've been saying it for years. And we all know why.

Trump and Biden are two old men who are only getting older. Nearly 60% of Americans say Trump and Biden are both too old to be president—because they are. We've all seen them fumble their words and get confused about world leaders. That's not who you want in the Oval Office when Russia launches a nuclear weapon at our satellites or China shuts down our electricity grid.

We're talking about the most demanding job in human history. You don't give it to someone who's at risk of dementia. You give it to someone who is disciplined—someone who can work day and night for eight years straight. No vendettas. No drama. Just results.

Even if Trump and Biden weren't too old—and again, they are—Americans still oppose them because we know what they'll do. They've already done tremendous damage—and they're just getting started.

Biden has crippled families with years of inflation. He's put welfare over work and doled out more corporate welfare than any president, ever. Meanwhile, Trump added more to the national debt than any president in history. And it wasn't because of COVID, no matter how many times he tries that excuse. Now he wants a 10% tax hike on every American. Just like Biden, Trump will devastate families and destroy good-paying jobs.

We need to shift our economy into overdrive—not reverse.

Most importantly, we need a President who protects America.

Biden has failed this basic duty. As Commander-in-Chief, he tried to cut the military. He's made us weaker while our enemies get stronger. He withdrew from Afghanistan in a way that encouraged our enemies to do whatever they want. Three years later, Russia has invaded Ukraine. Hamas has murdered Israeli women and children in their beds. China is launching unprecedented cyberattacks on American infrastructure. Iran is killing American soldiers.

At the same time, Donald Trump has plenty of his own problems on national security. He's all but said he'll abandon Ukraine. That's a massive gift to Vladimir Putin. Now Trump is inviting Putin to invade NATO countries. Those are the same countries that stood with us after September 11th. Of course we should demand they pay more. But abandoning them will only bring more war. Putin is already planning his next move. He's eyeing our allies in the Baltics. A Russian attack would put America at war.

Russia isn't the only country that smells blood in the water. When the dictators in Iran, North Korea, and Communist China see America step back, they rush into the breach. They think America's time has passed—and their time has come.

The truth is, Americans already know what Joe Biden and Donald Trump will do. But we're just as concerned with who they are. They're dividers at a time when America desperately, urgently, needs a uniter.

All they do is turn us against each other. Trump calls his fellow Americans vermin. Biden calls his fellow Americans fascists. Trump and Biden don't just demand that people pick sides. They demand that their followers hate the other side.

Look where that's gotten us. Congress is too divided and broken to do its job. Families won't even talk to each other at the dinner table. We're separating into opposing camps that view each other as un-American, if not downright evil.

These are dangerous times. The most important thing we must do is regain our focus and shared sense of purpose. The worst thing we can do is become even more distracted and divided.

The reason I'm running—the reason I continue to run—is to remind everyone what it means to be American.

I'm the proud daughter of legal immigrants. I grew up as a brown girl in a black-and-white world. I saw our state move beyond hatred and elect the first female minority governor in American history—as a conservative Republican. And in just a few days, my parents are going to cast their vote for their daughter for President of the United States. I've thought this week about what that means to them. But I know what it says about our country.

In the America I know and love, we disagree strongly, but we do it without hating each other, and we still have a shared national purpose. In the America I know and love, we respect freedom and the rule of law, we refuse to use the awesome power of big government to punish those we dislike, and we recognize that America has done more good for more people than any country in the world.

It's not America First to withdraw from the world. It's not America First to praise dictators who want to kill Americans. It's not America First to bankrupt Social Security by doing nothing to fix it. And in fact, it's America Last to keep losing one election after another to the Socialist Left. That's what we get with Donald Trump.

I'm running for president to restore a country that's strong and proud. That is why I will stay in the race after South Carolina votes.

And to my beloved fellow South Carolinians, I ask that you stand with me. Stand with your family, friends, and neighbors. See the America I see. And remember that we can still unite and move forward together—not with anger and fear, but with faith and hope, like we've done before. Let's finally leave the past behind—and let's forge a new American future.

This vision has guided every generation. It summoned me to serve as governor of this great state, and as ambassador for the greatest country in the world.

And that same vision called my husband to serve in the uniform of the United States. He's a major in the South Carolina Army National Guard. As I prepare for what lies ahead, Michael is at the front of my mind.

I wish Michael was here today, and I wish our children and I could see him tonight. But we can't.

He's serving on the other side of the world, where conflict is the norm. Where terrorists hide among the innocent. Where Iran's terrorist proxies are now attacking American troops.

This is Michael's second deployment. It was hard for us to say goodbye the first time, when he deployed to Afghanistan. It was even harder last summer when he deployed to Africa.

As every military family knows, when a loved one deploys, it's a year-long prayer. It's a prayer for their safety, more than anything else. But it's also a prayer of gratitude.

The kids and I know why Michael went. He stepped up to keep us safe—and not just us. He stepped up to defend our nation's freedom and our way of life.

Michael is fighting for the country he loves. So are all his brothers-and-sisters-in-arms, wherever they're stationed in our dangerous world. They have made their stand because America is worth fighting and even dying for. Now I will continue to make my stand because America is worth living for.

Thank you. God bless you, God bless South Carolina, and God bless America.

Nikki Haley, Remarks in Greenville, South Carolina: "Not Going Anywhere" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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