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Haley’s Wall Street donor surge draws fire ahead of GOP debate

Former Governor from South Carolina and UN ambassador Nikki Haley (L) and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attend the third Republican presidential primary debate at the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, on November 8, 2023.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis slammed Nikki Haley’s economic views and financial ties ahead of the fourth Republican primary debate night.

“You see what some of the support she’s garnering from these Wall Street guys who’ve supported Hillary Clinton,” DeSantis said Tuesday in a radio interview. “She really represents that last gasp of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear.”

The fresh line of attack from DeSantis hinted at what the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations can expect at Wednesday’s debate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The event will be broadcast on NewsNation starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

As President Joe Biden continues to poll poorly on the economy despite falling gas prices and inflation rates, Republicans see a golden opportunity.

But in order for DeSantis to claim the prize, he will need to stand apart from the rest of the field.

The debate could be one of his last chances to cut into Haley’s momentum before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses next month.

Once seen as the top Republicans alternative to former President Donald Trump, DeSantis has seen his poll numbers slide in recent months, while Haley’s have steadily ticked up.

Some polls now show Haley in second place in the key primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina — while edging up on DeSantis in Iowa, where he has focused his campaign.

Wall Street weighs in

Haley’s surge has sparked a recent wave of donations from Wall Street veterans and other high-profile donors.

Haley raised over $500,000 on Monday at a glitzy New York City penthouse event packed with financial heavies, CNBC’s Brian Schwartz reported.

Billionaire and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman also reportedly gave $250,000 to a super PAC backing Haley this week.

A Democrat who supports Biden, Hoffman said in a LinkedIn post that he donated to Haley because “my first priority is American democracy and the integrity of our legal system. That means my first priority is to defeat Trump, and the primary is the first of two chances to do so.”

Hoffman’s party affiliation was not lost on the DeSantis campaign.

“It makes perfect sense that liberal Democrat billionaires would support Nikki Haley’s bid for the White House, because she is a liberal,” campaign press secretary Bryan Griffin said in a statement.

DeSantis’ campaign also resurfaced Haley’s reported meeting last month with Blackrock CEO Larry Fink, an attack focused on Haley’s stance on ESG.

Fink has championed the investing strategy that considers environmental, social and governance factors. But conservatives have decried it, and DeSantis has barred Florida state officials from using public funds to promote ESG goals.

Haley braces for impact

DeSantis isn’t the only Republican set to take aim at Haley Wednesday night.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has been Haley’s chief antagonist so far, and seemed poised to keep up his attacks in Alabama.

Haley has returned fire, most notably when she called him “scum” in the last debate after he made a remark about her adult daughter’s use of TikTok.

Meanwhile, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has accused Haley of tiptoeing around any criticism of Trump, who leads in national polls by huge margins.

Trump will skip Wednesday’s debate just as he has all the others, leaving Haley and DeSantis to duke it out for the chance to be the top Republican alternative, heading into Iowa.

This may not be as empty of a trophy as it sounds. Trump, after all, lost to Biden in 2020, and faces an unprecedented four criminal cases that could go to trial in the next year.

Haley’s campaign shared a debate “cheat sheet” Wednesday that highlighted negative press coverage about DeSantis’ campaign’s personnel issues, and accused him of lying about her record.

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