Nikki Haley’s polling gains spur stream of debate attacks from GOP field

The crowd booed the move, and Haley said it was “not worth” responding when moderators gave her the chance.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also focused on donors, specifically calling out Haley donor Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, who has long come under attack from DeSantis for his support of environmental, social and governance-focused investment strategies, which consider social factors like climate change or gun control. As governor, DeSantis pulled $2 billion in Florida assets managed by BlackRock over his opposition to so-called ESG. 

“One of Nikki Haley’s largest supporters is Larry Fink, the king of the woke-industrial complex, the ESG movement,” DeSantis said. 

After taking attacks for a majority of the debate’s opening, Haley quipped, “I love all the attention, fellas, thanks,” and said the criticism was driven by jealousy.

“In terms of these donors that are supporting me, they’re just jealous,” Haley said. “They wish that they were supporting them.”

She added that Boeing was “a great partner to me” when she was governor of South Carolina and that she and her husband were not “bankrupt” when she left the U.N., as Ramaswamy said.

“My husband is in the military, and I served our country as U.N. ambassador and governor,” Haley said in response to Ramaswamy, who is estimated to be worth upward of $950 million. “It may be bankrupt to him, but it certainly wasn’t bankrupt to us.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the fourth candidate onstage, was largely ignored as Haley went back and forth with DeSantis and Ramaswamy. But he later came to Haley’s defense, calling Ramaswamy a “blowhard” for continuing to target her, including claiming she would be unable to name specific regions of Ukraine.

“We are now 25 minutes into this debate, and he has insulted Nikki Haley’s basic intelligence — not her positions, but her basic intelligence,” Christie said. “Look, if you want to disagree on issues, that’s fine. … But I’ll tell you this: I’ve known her for 12 years, which is longer than [Ramaswamy] even started to vote in the Republican primary, and while we disagree about some issues … we don’t disagree on this: This is a smart, accomplished woman.”

“You should stop attacking her,” he added.

Haley’s campaign sent out a mid-debate email under the headline “Nikki 1, the fellas 0.”

“You know Nikki Haley is winning because her opponents are falling over themselves trying to attack her,” the email read. “Spoiler alert: It’s not sticking. Nikki is still winning and jealousy is not a good look on the fellas.”