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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Attacks intensify before Tuesday primary as Trump stokes VP talk

Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and a Republican presidential candidate, speaks to reporters after a campaign event in Peterborough, N.H. on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

By Lisa Lerer

On the final weekend before the New Hampshire primary, former President Donald Trump and former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina were escalating their attacks on each other in a contest that may determine whether Trump faces any meaningful opposition to his effort to capture the nomination.

Haley launched her most pointed attacks yet Saturday, taking direct aim at Trump’s mental acuity and fitness to serve another term as president a day after he appeared to repeatedly confuse Haley with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the former House speaker, during his rally. He falsely said Haley was in charge of security during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Haley has never served in Congress and left her last government role six years ago.

“My parents are up in age, and I love them dearly,” she told reporters after her event in Peterborough, New Hampshire. “But when you see them hit a certain age, there is a decline. That’s a fact — ask any doctor, there is a decline.”

In recent days, Trump has directed increasingly caustic barbs at Haley, his most formidable opponent in Tuesday’s primary. He used his rally Saturday night in Manchester, New Hampshire, to try to show that she lacks support in her home state, as several leaders from South Carolina joined him onstage.

“Almost every politician from South Carolina is supporting me,” Trump boasted.

He was interrupted by a protester as he accused President Joe Biden of being a threat to democracy. The protester shouted, “Dictator,” as security escorted him out.

Trump later heaped praise on Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary whose attacks on democratic norms have been widely condemned.

“It’s nice to have a strong man running your country,” Trump said.

His campaign has sent a series of surrogates to New Hampshire to press his case and stir speculation about whom he might pick as his running mate, a way of signaling to voters that he is on a march to the nomination.

Trump and his aides are eager to bring the primary to a rapid conclusion and avoid a drawn-out and costly battle for the Republican Party’s nomination.

Recent polling indicates that Trump remains the commanding front-runner in New Hampshire, consistently leading in the state by a double-digit margin.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who left New Hampshire on Friday, is spending the weekend campaigning in South Carolina.

Here’s what else to know:

— The South Carolina ad reservation announced by Haley’s campaign is a $4 million buy across television, radio and digital that will begin the day after the New Hampshire primary, as she seeks a one-on-one contest with Trump. “Beating Donald Trump is not easy,” said Betsy Ankney, Haley’s campaign manager. “He is a juggernaut. But how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

— Beyond South Carolina’s governor, Trump was to be joined at his rally in Manchester on Saturday evening by the state’s lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer, as well as the speaker of South Carolina’s House of Representatives and three congressmen from the state.

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