Home » Haley makes a play for New Hampshire independents by hitting Trump’s age

Haley makes a play for New Hampshire independents by hitting Trump’s age

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has reached the do-or-die moment of her 2024 presidential bid: She must win in New Hampshire to have a shot at making her home state of South Carolina competitive.

That reality has pushed her into a notably more aggressive tone vis-à-vis her only real competitor, Donald Trump. One of her key points of distinction is centering around the 77-year-old’s age.

At Thursday’s CNN town hall in New Hampshire, Haley painted Trump and President Joe Biden as generational equals who weren’t up to the task of leading America.

“Do we really want to have two 80-year-olds running for president when we have a country in disarray and a world on fire?” Haley asked attendees.

“They are so distracted by their own investigations and their own grievances. We don’t need people that are distracted. We need people who love America, realize that if your time is gone, move out of the way and let a new generational leader come in.”

Haley’s bread and butter in New Hampshire isn’t actually Republicans. If she stands a chance of making the Granite State competitive, it will be by assembling a coalition of anti-Trump Republicans and independents, who can vote in the GOP primary.

“I want to bring people into the party. Because at the end of the day, we have to heal and unify as Americans,” Haley said.

Generally speaking, the voting bloc Haley hopes to carve out in New Hampshire tracks with the voters Biden will ultimately need to peel off to defeat Trump in a potential ’24 rematch.

In that respect, Haley making the pitch that both Trump and Biden are old is actually good. The media has fixated on Biden’s age mostly to the exclusion of Trump’s. Polling has also suggested that voters are more fixated on Biden’s age, and there’s a reason for that: Republicans, in cult-like fashion, are very hesitant to question Trump’s age.

In last September’s Daily Kos/Civiqs survey, for instance, 49% of voters expressed concern over Trump’s age while 75% expressed concern about Biden’s age. One of the biggest drivers of that differential, however, was that nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans willingly questioned their own candidate’s age, with 50% of Democrats expressing reservations about Biden’s age compared to 27% of Republicans saying the same about Trump.

Independents were also more concerned about Biden’s age at 83% while 53% said the same of Trump. In that respect, Haley highlighting and equating the age of her male rivals amid her outreach to independents could help Biden neutralize the issue somewhat among a key slice of voters.

Haley’s attacks are also forcing the media to cover Trump’s age anew. “Trump plays defense after Haley attacks his age,” read a Washington Post headline posted Thursday evening.

And guess what: One person in particular hasn’t liked Haley’s comparison one bit.

At a Wednesday rally in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, Trump waxed about how youthful he feels.

“I feel like I’m about 35 years old,” Trump told the crowd. “I actually feel better now than I did 30 years ago. Tell me, is that crazy? I feel better now, and I think cognitively I’m better than I was 20 years ago. I don’t know why.” Objectively speaking, Trump doesn’t look 35.

But on the question of cognitive capabilities, even the Post couldn’t resist harkening back to one of Trump’s most mockable moments in office as he attempted to prove how mentally sharp he was by recounting an acuity test he took in 2018. The comedy unfolded during a July 2020 interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News as Trump campaigned for his reelection.

Trump said he was first asked to repeat a set of words — “person,” “woman,” “man,” “camera,” “TV,” he said, offering a hypothetical example — and then, later in the assessment after some time had elapsed, he was again asked whether he remembered those same words, in order.

“And they say… ‘Go back to that question, and repeat them. Can you do it?’ ” Trump said, mimicking the doctors administering the exam. “And you go, ‘Person, woman, man, camera, TV.’ They say, ‘That’s amazing. How did you do that?’ I do it because I have, like, a good memory, because I’m cognitively there.”

Nothing but stable genius there.

Biden can’t change his age, but nor can Trump. Haley’s attacks could help level the playing field for Team Biden on the topic.

And when it comes time for Biden to make his case, it might be time for a little dose of what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did for Democratic Sen. Ed Markey in 2020, when he was fending off a challenge from a much younger Democratic challenger, Rep. Joe Kennedy.

“When it comes to progressive leadership, it’s not your age that counts, it’s the age of your ideas,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a pro-Markey ad. “And Ed Markey is the leader that we need.”

That’s a message that tracks well in a Biden-Trump rematch where Trump is attempting to take the country back—not to 1950s America, but to 1930s Germany.

Campaign Action


January 2024