By Nathan Layne and David Morgan
(Reuters) -Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley raised $24.5 million between October and December, her campaign said on Wednesday, more than doubling the prior quarter’s haul in her latest sign of momentum ahead of the party’s primary fight.
The total easily beat the $11 million her campaign brought in during the third quarter and the $7.3 million raised in the second quarter, underscoring growing interest in her bid to unseat former President Donald Trump for the party’s nomination.
With less than two weeks before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses on Jan. 15, the former South Carolina governor is trying to overtake Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who himself faces a make-or-break moment in the state and was challenged on Wednesday by one voter to go more directly after Trump.
Both candidates want to be the clear alternative to Trump, the frontrunner in the race to take on President Joe Biden in November’s general election.
Haley’s campaign said she had $14.5 million cash on hand and had raised money from 83,900 new donors in the October-December period, which it said was nearly equal to the number of unique donors in all the previous quarters combined.
Haley’s poll numbers have risen in the past few months on the back of solid performances in Republican debates, but Trump still dominates the contest.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month showed Haley and DeSantis tied for second place with 11% of Republican support each. Trump towered above them with 61%.
Haley, who served as U.N. ambassador under Trump, came under fire last week for how she responded to a question about the origins of the U.S. Civil War at a New Hampshire town hall, declining to cite slavery as one of the main causes. Haley later corrected that omission but not before drawing rebukes from Democrats and some of her Republican opponents.
On Wednesday, she told Fox News only the media was focused on the issue. “Not one person on the ground in New Hampshire or Iowa are talking about it,” she said.
Here are some other takeaways from the campaign trail:
HOUSE REPUBLICANS BEND THE KNEE
Trump won the full support of Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, as Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Tom Emmer, the chamber’s No. 3 Republican, issued full-throated endorsements.
The second- and third-ranked House Republicans endorsed the former president just weeks after he opposed their separate bids for House speaker in the aftermath of Republican Kevin McCarthy’s ouster from the top congressional job. Trump instead backed conservative leader Jim Jordan’s unsuccessful bid.
At a time when Emmer appeared to be the leading Republican candidate for the speakership, Trump blasted him on social media as a “globalist RINO” whose election would be “a tragic mistake,” using the acronym for Republican in Name Only.
Wall-to-wall fealty for Trump at the top of the House Republican hierarchy could help shore up support for party incumbents in this year’s primary election campaigns, where Trump supporters are often the most active bloc of voters.
But Republican leaders could see the strategy backfire in November, if Trump proves unpopular with swing voters needed to win general elections in congressional districts Republicans must capture to protect their House majority, now at 220-213.
House Speaker Mike Johnson and House Republican conference chair Elise Stefanik, the No. 4 House Republican who is viewed as a possible Trump running mate, also have thrown their support behind the former president.
“It’s time for Republicans to unite behind our party’s clear frontrunner,” Emmer said on Wednesday in a post on X, warning that Biden could be reelected unless Republicans are unified.
RFK Jr. QUALIFIES IN UTAH
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed to run as a presidential candidate in Utah on Wednesday, marking the first state where the independent candidate and prominent anti-vaccine activist has qualified to appear on the ballot.
Kennedy, who turns 70 this month, told supporters on Wednesday that he plans to spend $15 million in the upcoming months to get on ballots in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Arizona is likely the next state where Kennedy will qualify, the campaign said.
Kennedy’s success at getting on the Utah ballot stokes questions of whether he will play the role of spoiler for Biden or Trump, his likely Republican rival.
The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Kennedy could draw more support from Biden than Trump. Trump’s lead widened to a 5-point advantage nationally when respondents were given an option to vote for Kennedy.
Kennedy criticized the obstacles to ballot access for third-party candidates, saying the requirements in some states make it almost impossible to challenge the “chokehold” that Republicans and Democrats have over U.S. politics.
“This process is forcing us to build our army now,” he said. “And we’re going to have a better army on the street and in the trenches in November 2024.”
A scion of one of the nation’s most famous Democratic dynasties, the longtime environmental lawyer veered from the party last fall and announced his independent bid for the White House.
He is a son of former senator and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and a nephew of Democratic President John F. Kennedy.
FOX NEWS TAROT READING
Fox News host Jesse Watters brought in English psychic Paula Roberts for a tarot card election preview that she said was not a good sign for Trump. “A sense of loss,” she said of the Five of Cups card she pulled for the former president. “It’s very specific,” she said.
What about Biden? His card indicated a lot of money was in his future, Roberts said.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, David Morgan in Washington, Jarrett Renshaw in Washington and Costas Pitas in Los Angeles; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Howard Goller and Daniel Wallis)