Nikki Haley calls out Biden and Trump as bumbling, ‘grumpy old men’
NEWBERRY, S.C — Nikki Haley once again made jabs at the current and former presidents’ ages while campaigning in her home state Saturday, this time with examples of recent blunders as to why neither should be in the White House.
Repeating her call for competency tests for politicians over age 75, Haley said a federal report released Thursday on President Joe Biden and a flub last month by former President Donald Trump prove her point.
“Why do we have to have someone in their 80s running for office?” Haley asked a crowd of about 100 outside the Newberry Opera House, her first of three campaign stop of the day. “Why can’t they let go of the power and let new a generational leader come in there?”
‘Grumpy old men’
“Because they’re grumpy old men,” someone in the crowd shouted back, playing into Haley’s new line of attack.
“Because they are grumpy old men,” Haley repeated about 81-year-old Biden and 77-year-old Trump.
Her campaign’s two-minute video of the two presidents making rambling and bumbling comments ends with them paired together like the main characters in the 1993 movie.
Haley’s campaign staff handed out copies of the competency test the 52-year-old former governor believes they should take.
It would include repeating a list of words, identifying a series of animals — the example test showed a snake, elephant and alligator — and naming the time, date and city where they’re taking it.
“These are basic things,” she told reporters after her roughly 15-minute speech. She acknowledged she hadn’t taken it herself.
Haley pointed to a report by a U.S. Department of Justice special counsel that said Biden won’t face charges for having classified documents dating from his tenure as vice president in large part because a jury likely wouldn’t convict a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
“There’s nothing normal about” having a president with memory problems, she said.
She also highlighted a speech where Trump confused Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a mental blip also used for laughs during her cameo appearance last week on Saturday Night Live.
The White House shouldn’t be “the most privileged nursing home in the country,” Haley told reporters after her speech. “These people are making decisions on our national security. These people are making decisions on the future of our economy. We need to know they’re at the top of their game.”
Both Biden and Trump have dismissed flubs in their speeches as simple mistakes that are nothing to worry about.
In a press conference called to address the report, Biden told reporters Thursday his “memory is fine” and blasted the special counsel’s assessment.
“I’m well-meaning and I’m an elderly man, and I know what the hell I’m doing,” he said to the first reporter’s question, shortly before mixing up the presidents of Mexico and Egypt in another answer.
Haley said she believes Democrats “are waking up” to what she’s been saying for months — that Biden isn’t going to survive a second term. She’s been presenting her candidacy as an alternative to Trump and Vice President Kamala Harris ascending to the Oval Office.
“You look at what’s happened in the last couple of days, and you see exactly what I’m talking about,” she said. “It’s time for a new generational leader. The party that dismisses their 80-year-old candidate is the party that will win the presidency, without a doubt.”
Haley and Trump were both campaigning in South Carolina on Saturday, two weeks before voters choose between them in South Carolina’s GOP presidential primary. Early voting for the contest starts Monday.
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Biden wasn’t the only one who had a bad week, Haley said, referencing a federal appeals court’s rejection of Trump’s argument he was immune from criminal prosecution for any alleged conduct while he was president.
After Tuesday’s ruling, “all he did was talk about being a victim,” Haley said as Trump campaigned 175 miles away in Conway.
“What bothers me out of all of that, whether it was the night of New Hampshire, whether it was after that court case, was that at no point did he talk about the American people,” said Haley, who was Trump’s first United Nations ambassador.
She blamed recent dysfunction in the Republican Party on her former boss, including Republicans in Congress rejecting a deal on immigration at the southern border and the Republican National Committee chairwoman announcing plans to step down after the South Carolina primary.
“On that day of all those losses, he had his fingerprints all over it,” Haley said. “And we can’t be a country in disarray in a world on fire and go into four more years of chaos. We won’t survive it.”
The only remaining major Republican candidate in the race (there are two extreme-long-shot candidates on South Carolina’s ballot), Haley has pitched herself not only as a younger alternative to Trump and Biden but the only viable candidate to beat Biden.
Despite getting trounced in every GOP contest so far and continuing to poll far behind Trump even in her home state, Haley painted her losses as victories that brought in more support than she expected.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, the only member of South Carolina’s congressional delegation to back Haley, again pointed to Haley’s past as evidence she can still win.
She beat expectations in 2004 by defeating a longtime incumbent to win her seat in the South Carolina House. Six years later, she defied the odds by defeating a congressman, state attorney general and lieutenant governor — all better known than her when the campaign started — to become South Carolina’s first female and first minority governor.
What voters said
Her pitch as being the youngest major candidate resonated with her supporters Saturday.
Haley’s age and capacity to lead are a big reason Newberry residents Charlie and Laura Dukes said they plan to vote for her in the coming primary.
“It’s time to make some changes, get a younger voice, get different ideas in there,” said Charlie Dukes, 66.
Not only is she younger than Trump, but she’s less divisive, said Phil Lindler, a 53-year-old private consultant who said he’s still deciding who to vote for but is leaning toward Haley.
“She has a lot of good ideas, a lot of new ideas, and she wants to work with everyone,” Lindler said.
Dottie and Joe Koenig, who worked for the state while Haley was governor, said they’re still optimistic that voters will come around to Haley over Trump in the coming nominating contests.
The 50-year-old Camden residents said they don’t want to support Trump in the general election because of how polarizing he has become.
“It would be very hard for me if she doesn’t make it” to the general election, Dottie Koenig said. “I don’t think my conscience would let me vote for either (Trump or Biden).”
At the finally rally of the day, at The Grove in Gilbert, protestors interrupted Haley’s speech seven times.
At one point, after three people in a row shouted over her, Haley asked the crowd to raise their hands if they were there to disrupt her. No one in the crowd of about 100 raised their hands. Still, people shouted over her speech four more times.
“Welcome to silly season,” Haley said at one point, as police escorted out a small group.
The protests were not on any single issue. One woman asked, repeatedly, “What will you do to protect workers?” A group started a chant of, “What’s disgusting? Union busting.” One man shouted, “We can’t survive on $7.25.”
“Y’all should tell Biden about that,” Haley quipped in response.
Other shouts were drowned out by chants of “Nikki” from her supporters.
A man who identified himself as a disabled veteran, asked Haley, “What will you do for us?” While most of the protestors were escorted out immediately, totaling around a dozen in all, Haley responded to the veteran’s question, telling him she planned to increase access to telehealth and give veterans the option of where to get health care.
“It’s shameful how we treat our veterans,” Haley said.
This report was first published by the SC Daily Gazette, part of the States Newsroom nonprofit news network with the Louisiana Illuminator. It’s supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. SC Daily Gazette maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Seanna Adcox for questions: [email protected]. Follow SC Daily Gazette on Facebook and X.
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