Newly minted White House hopeful Nikki Haley pitched herself to conservatives outside of Washington, D.C., on Friday, delivering a ramped-up version of her typical stump speech that urged Republicans to back a younger generation of party leaders and played off GOP fears of socialism and so-called wokeness.
Speaking to a half-full ballroom at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Haley rattled off a list of talking points that have so far defined her nascent presidential bid. She railed against out-of-control federal spending, accused the Biden administration of staking out a weak posture toward China and reiterated her call to subject politicians over the age of 75 to a “mental competency test.”
Buried in her remarks was also an implicit dig at former President Trump, her one-time boss and current rival for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nod. She noted that Republicans had lost the popular vote in nearly every presidential election since 1992. Trump lost the popular vote in both 2016 and 2020.
“We’ve lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections,” she said. “Our cause is right, but we have failed to win the confidence of a majority of Americans. That ends now. If you’re tired of losing, then put your trust in a new generation. And if you want to win — not just as a party, but as a country — then stand with me.”
Haley’s appearance at CPAC marked an effort to reintroduce herself to a crowd of conservative activists and a segment of the GOP grassroots that plays a critical role in the presidential nominating process.
While she has long been seen as a rising star in Republican circles, early polling shows her distantly trailing Trump and another potential rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who hasn’t announced whether he will seek the White House in 2024 but is actively preparing for a likely campaign.
Haley’s speech touched on the themes that have been at the center of her campaign since the beginning. She touted herself as “proof that liberals are wrong about everything they say about America,” noting that she is “a woman,” “a minority” and “the daughter of immigrants.”
She also warned that the U.S. is spiraling “toward socialism” under President Biden, and claimed that “wokeness is a virus more dangerous than any pandemic,” echoing a talking point that has been embraced by conservatives like DeSantis.
“I have traveled the world and back and I have seen what’s out there. America isn’t perfect, but the principles at the heart of America are perfect,” Haley said.
“America is not a racist country,” she added. “I will get the self-loathing out of our schools, I will get the self-destruction out of our culture and once we make America proud, we will make America strong.”
But the reception to Haley appeared mixed. Her call to require competency tests for politicians over the age of 75 was met with only sparse applause, while her pledge to support term limits for members of Congress received a more enthusiastic response from the crowd.
After exiting the stage, videos posted online showed Haley facing a crowd of conference attendees loudly chanting “Trump.”
Haley is set to go in front of a different crowd on Saturday when she will address the conservative Club for Growth’s annual donor retreat in Palm Beach, Fla.