COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Nikki Haley reappeared Monday at the Statehouse where her political career began to file paperwork to participate in the South Carolina primary as she hopes to become the primary alternative in her party to former President Donald Trump.

The former South Carolina governor, who vacated the post in 2017 to become United Nations ambassador, suggested that by South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary, she might be able to beat Trump, who maintains huge leads nationally and in early primary states.

A Des Moines Register poll released Monday shows Haley pulling even in Iowa with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, even as both lag far behind the former president. Haley and DeSantis are vying for second place in hopes of consolidating the support of people who want an alternative to Trump, with their campaigns and allied super PACs increasingly targeting each other in ads and messaging.

A field that began with roughly a dozen candidates is shrinking. Former Vice President Mike Pence ended his bid over the weekend amid lackluster polling numbers and low fundraising totals. Those numbers will only continue to dwindle after the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus and subsequent New Hampshire primary, Haley said.

“Then we’ll come to the sweet state of South Carolina, and we’ll finish it,” Haley said.

With Israel deepening its offensive into Gaza, Haley positioned herself as a strong candidate on foreign policy. She criticized the Biden administration for loosening sanctions on Iran, and emphasized that the United States should play only a “supporting role” to Israel. She said she would not have pressed the Israeli government to restore internet communications recently in the Gaza Strip.

“I have been in those tunnels. I have been on the border of Lebanon. I’ve been on the border of Syria. I’ve seen what happens in Gaza,” Haley told supporters on Monday. “When you see it, you see how sophisticated this is.”


Pollard is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.