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Nikki Haley says challenging Trump is more important than ever

Republican presidential candidate, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, speaks at a campaign event at Clemson University in Greenville on Tuesday.
Allison Joyce
Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, speaks at a campaign event at Clemson University in Greenville on Tuesday.

With just days to go before a critical primary in her home state of South Carolina, Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley says her challenge to former President Donald Trump is more important than ever.

"South Carolina will vote on Saturday, but on Sunday I'll still be running for president," Haley said during a campaign speech in Greenville, S.C. "I'm not going anywhere."

Haley pledged to remain in the race until "the last person votes."

"Dropping out would be the easy route," she added. "I'm not taking the easy route."

She also had strong words for Trump, the front-runner in the race.

"We've all heard the calls for me to drop out. We all know where they're coming from. The political elite, the party bosses," Haley said. "Of course many of the same politicians who publicly embrace Trump privately dread him."

"I feel no need to kiss the ring. I have no fear of Trump's retribution. I'm not looking for anything from him," she added. "My own political future is of zero concern. So I hear what the political class says. But I hear from the American people, too."

Haley, a former South Carolina governor, is trailing Trump in Republican primary polls and has yet to win a presidential nominating contest.

She addressed that in her speech as well, saying the American people want something different than a Biden-Trump rematch.

"I've been the underdog in every race I've ever run. I've always been David taking on Goliath," Haley said, speaking of the Bible story about a young man taking on a giant. "And like David, I'm not just fighting someone bigger than me, I'm fighting for something bigger than myself."

She has continued fundraising and campaigning ahead of South Carolina's Republican primary on Saturday. Haley's campaign says she "has the resources to go the distance" and she saw her strongest fundraising month so far in January, bringing in more than $16 million.

In recent weeks, Haley has been directing attacks at both Trump and President Biden.

"Like most Americans, I have a handful of serious concerns about the former president," Haley said. "But I have countless serious concerns about the current president."

"We have two hugely flawed candidates in Biden and Trump," she added.

Haley has pitched herself to voters as a new generation of leadership. She has hammered both presidents on their age and did not mince words.

"Trump and Biden are two old men who are only getting older," she said. "We've all seen them fumble their words and get confused about world leaders. That's not who you want in the Oval Office when Russia launches a nuclear weapon at our satellites or China shuts down our electricity grid."

"We're talking about the most demanding job in human history. You don't give it to someone who's at risk of dementia," Haley added.

She's accused Trump of bringing "chaos" to the party and the country, and she criticized him for failing to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin following the death of opposition leaderAlexei Navalny.

On Biden, she's been highlighting his age and promising a new generation of leadership.

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Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.