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Nikki Haley lashed out on Monday at what she said were Donald Trump’s “lies”, as she urged voters in New Hampshire to defy the “political class” backing the former president ahead of Tuesday’s pivotal primary vote.
The former South Carolina governor responded to days of attacks by Trump, telling a crowd on Monday morning to check “every single thing” that he had said about her.
“I have seen all of the commercials that you have seen, and I have seen the mail that you have been reading, and every single thing that Donald Trump has said, or put on TV, has been a lie,” Haley said at a veterans’ hall in Franklin, New Hampshire. “Check with the fact checkers, every single thing.”
Her broadside came in a final day of frantic campaigning just a day ahead of the primary, as the former US ambassador raced to close a wide polling gap.
The battle between the two has turned nasty, after Trump described her as a “birdbrain” and referred to Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, as “Nimra” — a misspelling of her birth name Nimarata.
Trump has also claimed falsely that Haley could be ineligible for the presidency, reviving the “birther” conspiracy theories he propagated about Barack Obama.
Haley and her allies are betting that she can defeat Trump by winning over moderate Republicans, as well as the independent voters who make up a large share of the New Hampshire electorate and can choose to participate in the Republican primary.
The latest FiveThirtyEight average of opinion polls have confirmed her as the race’s underdog, showing Trump with the support of almost 51 per cent of likely New Hampshire primary voters. Haley was on 37 per cent.
On top of his polling lead, Trump has also won endorsements from former primary rivals Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who dropped his bid on Sunday, North Dakota governor Doug Burgum, Senator Tim Scott, and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, two other Republican senators, have also endorsed him.
But Haley dismissed the endorsements on Monday, saying that while she had “watched the political class line up with Donald Trump”, she had “fought the political class all of my life”. She also rejected calls to drop her bid for the nomination.
“I have watched the entire media elite, yesterday and today, say that I should drop out for the good of the country to support Donald Trump,” Haley said, prompting boos from the crowd in Franklin.
“America doesn’t do coronations, we believe in choices,” she said. “Let’s show all of the media class and the political class that we have got a different plan in mind.”
Many voters in Franklin seemed receptive to Haley’s message — and predicted she would defy the polls.
Brad Marshall, an 80-year-old registered Republican from nearby Boscawen, said Haley had “momentum” and that New Hampshire voters had thrown up surprise results in the past.
“New Hampshire, the ‘Live free or die state’ — you don’t know where it’s going to go,” Marshall said, referring to the state’s motto. “There has been more than one surprise candidate [to win here].”
Paula Cowie, a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader, a local newspaper, agreed, saying many independents in the state were “very angry with Trump” and “urging each other to get out and make a difference”.
“I think there is a very, very rebellious part of New Hampshire that is going to come out and roar tomorrow, and Trump is not going to be very happy,” she added.