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New Hampshire’s Republican governor Chris Sununu endorsed Nikki Haley for president, in a boost for the former South Carolina governor as she challenges Donald Trump for the GOP nomination for the White House in 2024.
Sununu formalised his endorsement at a town hall event with Haley in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Tuesday evening.
“Nikki Haley is the candidate with the momentum to win and get our party back on track to delivering conservative victories across the country. She’s answered our questions and built trust,” Sununu said in a post on X, the social media platform.
“So thankful that the Live Free or Die governor is on our team,” Haley replied, in a reference to New Hampshire’s state motto. “It doesn’t get any more rock-solid than this!”
Haley is polling second in New Hampshire, a crucial early voting state, but still trailing Trump by a significant margin, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight average. Trump commands nearly 45 per cent of the Republican primary electorate, compared with 19 per cent backing Haley.
But Sununu’s backing is seen as a big win for Haley and Trump’s one-time ambassador to the UN. Sununu is a prominent Trump critic and popular governor in New Hampshire, where voters will head to the polls in the first primary election of the year next month.
Several other Republican challengers, including Florida governor Ron DeSantis and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, had actively courted Sununu’s endorsement.
Haley, who has focused much of her campaigning efforts in New Hampshire and her home state of South Carolina, has enjoyed a steady rise in opinion polls in recent months, and has been buoyed by the backing of several deep-pocketed donors who argue she is the Republican best positioned to take on Trump.
Last month, she secured the endorsement of Americans for Prosperity Action, a well-funded super Pac backed by conservative billionaire Charles Koch. Several prominent Democratic donors, including JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon, have urged people to support her as an alternative to Trump.
Yet the Wall Street backing has also opened Haley up to criticism, and she came under sustained attack from DeSantis and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy in the most recent Republican presidential debate. Haley said her opponents were “just jealous” of her support.
Despite Sununu’s backing, Haley faces a steep uphill climb if she is to catch Trump, who remains the undisputed frontrunner in the Republican field.
High-profile endorsements in Iowa, where voters will caucus on January 15, one week before the New Hampshire primary, have done little to dent his support there.
DeSantis has been endorsed by Kim Reynolds, Iowa’s popular Republican governor, and Bob Vander Plaats, an influential evangelical Christian pastor in the Midwestern state, and is still hovering just under 20 points, compared with 47 per cent for Trump, according to FiveThirtyEight. Haley trails in third in the state, at 15 per cent, according to the polling average.