Donald Trump’s campaign is buying ads attacking Nikki Haley on MSNBC and other television networks that reach liberals in New Hampshire, in an effort to keep the state’s large bloc of “undeclared” independent voters from turning out for the former South Carolina governor.
“Haley’s plan cuts Social Security benefits for 82% of Americans,” the advertisement’s narrator says over images of diverse, concerned-looking people. “Trump will never let that happen.”
Trump advisor Chris LaCivita told Semafor Saturday the issue works in Trump’s favor with a wide range of voters. “The vast majority of Americans want their Social Security and Medicare benefits preserved: Not just Republicans, not just Democrats, but independents,” he said.
Haley has proposed raising the retirement age for younger workers, but says those nearing the current retirement age shouldn’t be affected by her proposed changes, something the ad does not note.
“We go to people like my kids in their twenties when they’re coming into the system, and we say the rules have changed,” she said last year.
Haley’s campaign, when asked for comment about team Trump’s strategy, dismissed the ad. Haley’s spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said it proves Trump “is terrified of Nikki Haley’s rise.”
“This is a two-person race between Nikki’s conservative vision for a strong and proud America and Trump’s continued obsession with the chaos and drama of the past,” Perez-Cubas said.
Haley has risen in the polls in New Hampshire in recent months, with the latest Five Thirty Eight average putting her at 30% support compared to Trump’s 41.4%. Publicly, Trump’s team remains confident that he’ll win the state — but they’ve still ramped up attacks against Haley as she’s gained steam.
On the right, Trump and his campaign have attacked Haley over immigration, with a separate ad out last week that tries to tie her policies with those of President Joe Biden.
But New Hampshire, where Republicans go to the polls on January 23, is a different political landscape, with a large number of independent voters who can vote in either primary. Those “undeclared” voters can swing the race toward a more moderate candidate, and have boosted Haley in public opinion polls. But while New Hampshire independents are hostile to Trump, they may also bridle at Haley’s entitlement plans. A Quinnipiac survey last year found that nearly 80% of voters oppose raising the retirement age to 70.
A Trump-aligned super PAC is also targeting undeclared voters in the state with mail telling voters that Haley is “Nikki Haley is a BIG Supporter of Trump’s MAGA Agenda.”
Trump’s widely-circulated attack on Ron DeSantis as “Pudding Fingers” was in fact aimed at DeSantis’s own stance on Social Security.
Trump warned House Republicans last year not to cut entitlements, marking a deep rift between MAGA politics and the party’s small-government tradition.