watch top moments in nikki haleys iowa town hall from torching trump to defending recent comments

Republican presidential candidate and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley had a number of stand-out moments during her appearance at an Iowa town hall hosted by CNN on Thursday.

Haley addressed how she plans to overtake former President Trump, the clear front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination, as well as addressing recent controversial statements she made on the campaign trail regarding slavery and the Iowa caucuses.

When asked how she planned to overtake Trump, who continues to hold a commanding lead in the polls despite Haley’s recent surge in New Hampshire and Iowa, the former South Carolina governor pointed to how many of the same polls indicate she would triumph in a one-on-one matchup with President Biden.

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Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at a campaign town hall in Rye, New Hampshire, January 2, 2024. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

“I defeat Biden by 17 points,” Haley said, referencing one recent poll and noting it showed she would perform better than Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another Republican candidate, in a hypothetical November contest against Biden. “If you win by double digits, you go into Washington with a mandate… It is time to move past President Trump.”

Haley argued that “chaos follows” Trump and that she would be the generational leader “that leaves negativity and baggage behind.” However, she later defended her intention to pardon Trump should he be convicted of any crime, and said some of the prosecutions the former president is currently facing in Georgia, Washington, D.C. and New York were “politically motivated.”

“I used to tell him he’s his own worst enemy,” Haley said, after stating that Trump would “have to answer” for some of the charges he faces, but without specifying which ones.

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When asked about the worsening crisis at the southern border, Haley called Biden’s handling of the situation was “truly a dereliction of duty,” and slammed his administration’s efforts to combat Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s actions to secure his state from the masses of migrants attempting to cross the Rio Grande.

Former President Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the New York Young Republican Club Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on December 09, 2023 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“Are you kidding me?” she said in reaction to Biden’s efforts to remove razor wire placed at the border to prevent passage. 

Haley added that a Haley administration would implement a national e-verify program to ensure businesses weren’t hiring illegal immigrants, defund sanctuary cities, “once and for all,” reinstate the remain in Mexico policy implemented by Trump, and “catch and deport” rather than “catch and release.”

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She went on to praise Abbott’s bussing migrants to sanctuary cities, but avoided giving DeSantis credit for doing the same despite being directly asked. 

Haley was later asked about how she declined to mention slavery as the reason for sparking the Civil War during a town hall event last month. She reiterated that she made a mistake by not mentioning it.

She explained that, as a southerner, she looks past the issue of slavery and race because of its prevalence in southern history and how southerners are exposed to it from an early age, but that she still should have mentioned slavery first.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott looks on during a news conference on March 15, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Continuing on the discussion of race, she touted her handling of the shooting of an unarmed Black man by a police officer in South Carolina in 2015 while she was governor, and noted that riots like those in Ferguson, Missouri that same year didn’t take place because of the relationship building she did with police and the community.

Haley also defended her recent comments on the Iowa caucuses that although the state “starts” the nominating process, New Hampshire will “correct it.” The suggestion lead to sharp criticism from her Republican opponents.

“We banter against each other… It’s what we do,” Haley said. “I think the problem in politics now is it’s too serious and too dramatic.” 

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“I have been coming here for months… You are going to see me fight until the very end of the last day in Iowa,” she said. “If I didn’t love Iowa, I wouldn’t keep coming to Iowa.” 

Said added that she would probably joke about New Hampshire while in Iowa in the coming days.

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