Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has been doing better in recent polling — and if you weren’t aware of that, you could probably have figured it out from the size of the target on her back during Wednesday night’s Republican presidential primary debate.
RealClearPolitics described the debate at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa as a “running knife fight” because of the recently changing momentum in the race, and other outlets reported on the event in similar fashion.
The desire to pull the rug out from Haley was nowhere more evident than when businessman Vivek Ramaswamy accused former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations of being corrupt — and held up a makeshift sign to make sure it turned into a photo op.
“Nikki is corrupt. This is a woman who will send your kids to die so she can buy a bigger house.”
—Vivek Ramaswamy, holding up a handmade sign, goes on an extended attack against Nikki Haley for “corruption” and using “identity politics.” pic.twitter.com/y69tKnXlBY
— The Recount (@therecount) December 7, 2023
Ramaswamy started out attacking Haley’s campaign launch video as sounding “woke,” an accusation to which Haley appeared to have trouble rolling her eyes in reaction.
“After the third debate, when I criticized [Republican Party Chair] Ronna McDaniel after five failed years of leadership of this party, and criticized Nikki for her corrupt foreign dealings as a military contractor, she said that I have ‘a woman problem,'” Ramaswamy continued.
“Nikki, I don’t have a woman problem,” he said. “You have a corruption problem, and I think that that’s what people need to know.”
It was at this point that he held up a notebook on which appeared the words “Nikki = corrupt.”
“Nikki is corrupt,” he said, holding the makeshift sign where the cameras could see it. “This is a woman who will send your kids to die so she can buy a bigger house,” he claimed.
(“Not mentioned while in pursuit of his viral moment was the fact that Haley’s husband, an officer in the South Carolina National Guard, is currently on a one-year deployment overseas,” RealClearPolitics noted.)
A few in the crowd cheered, but many were heard booing Ramaswamy as he called the audience representative of “her donor puppet masters.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis piled on the Haley criticism, but former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called her a “smart, accomplished woman” and dismissed Ramaswamy as the “most obnoxious blowhard in America,” according to Vox.
Three months ago, the RealClearPolitics average of polls showed DeSantis at 14.9 percent, Ramaswamy at 6.8, Haley at 6.1 and Christie at 2.8 — all well behind Trump at 53.6 percent at the time.
Wednesday’s polling average, obviously prior to the debate, had DeSantis down to 13.5, Ramaswamy down to 4.9, Christie down to 2.5 — and Haley up into double digits at 10.3.
Again, Trump, now at 61 points, easily beat out all of his Republican opponents combined, but it’s easy to see why the other campaigns would be targeting Haley, the only rising star in the current battle for second place.
It obviously remains to be seen whether what RealClearPolitics called Ramaswamy’s “pursuit of his viral moment” will have any effect on his numbers, but it should be noted that Haley has already accomplished something that his campaign never has — hitting double digits in the polling average.
Ramaswamy peaked at 8.1 percent on September 21, just before the second debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, and he’s been on a downward trend since.
And given that Haley’s rise in the polls has coincided almost exactly with Ramaswamy’s fall, it’s unsurprising that he had her in his sights Wednesday night: It was likely his last opportunity to target her face-to-face before the Iowa caucus kicks off the primary race in earnest on January 15.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.