Nikki Haley courts Iowa evangelicals amid rising polls… | news report

Veteran Iowa Republican activist Marlys Popma has received a call from Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign every two weeks for months.

Popma’s is one of those. coveted endorsements among the state’s conservative evangelicals. The 67-year-old was twice executive director of the Iowa Republican Party and twice chairman of Iowa Right to Life, and worked for the presidential campaigns of John McCain in 2008 and Ted Cruz in 2016.

But until a few days ago, she wasn’t willing to endorse a candidate. Then, at a town hall Friday in Newton, Iowa, Popma stood up and made a surprise endorsement. “I was an undecided voter when I walked in here,” she told the room full of Iowans, who had just heard Haley’s stump speech. “I’m no longer an undecided voter.”

She later told Christianity Today that “as a Christian, I really felt the Spirit telling me, ‘This is what you need to do, where you need to go.’ So I stood up and said, ‘You have my back.'”

The welcome endorsement came as Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump era, is having a moment in the polls and follows her strong debate performances with more details about her pro-life stances.

During the fall, she has risen nearly ten points in Iowa, putting her behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. In New Hampshire, she is resurrected 15 points in the polls, from 4 percent in August to 18 percent in November. she is maintaining second place in his home state of South Carolina. Donors have began to herd to his campaign. Surveys show voters prefer her in a confrontation with President Joe Biden.

The push comes with a big asterisk. “I have one more guy I have to catch up with,” Haley said. voters at an event in South Carolina earlier this month. “I’m determined to do it.”

Former President Donald Trump remains by far the favorite among evangelicals and Republicans. He has consistently led the polls and most signs point to a rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden. His large lead has made the rest of the race look like a fight for second place.

But as the crowded primary field has begun to thin out (former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott dropped out over the past month), Haley has held on and her campaign hopes to turn things around, with a field of more than 70 candidates. endorsement from Iowa leaders and $10 million in advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire over the next few weeks.

“I think there’s great potential for movement in Iowa,” Popma said. “And I probably know the caucuses as well as anyone in the state… and I think the more people see her and hear her, the better she’ll do.”

It is attracting the attention of voters beyond the early primary states.

“She’s really good at debates,” said Dan Darling, director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “She was a good, very good governor.”

Another advantage Haley has, Darling said, is projecting a sense of being “the adult in the room” during a time of troubling developments on the world stage, particularly since the war broke out between Israel and Hamas.

Haley has had to do some convincing on the issues that many evangelicals consider paramount. In a one-on-one conversation with the candidate before the town hall, Popma expressed concern about Haley’s position on abortion.

Haley put those worries to rest. “What she told me is that if Congress gets her a bill that protects unborn babies at 15 weeks, at 6 weeks, wherever, she will sign it,” Popma said.

At the time, it was a more staunchly conservative stance than Haley had stated publicly, but she reiterated it a few hours later at the Family Leaders Thanksgiving Forum, hosted by the influential Iowa-based Christian group.

When asked if she would sign a federal bill banning abortion after six weeks of gestation, Haley said yes. “Yes, whatever the people decide,” she added, in a nod to her previous answers, suggesting that she believes an abortion movement at the state level is likely.

In South Carolina, Haley signed a 2016 law banning most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, the most conservative bill state lawmakers could pass at the time. The state has since gone further by banning most abortions after six weeks.

In her campaign, she has consistently described herself as pro-life, but has been more moderate on the issue than some of her rivals.

In the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Haley has said Republicans should focus on finding consensus about the topic. In the third debate, he said he would sign anything lawmakers could accomplish, but noted that Republicans’ chances of passing a federal ban are unlikely as long as they only have limited control of one chamber of Congress.

It’s unclear whether Haley’s rhetorical shift to the right on abortion, or her push to become more visible in Iowa and other early voting states, will move the needle when it comes to white evangelical voters. many of which They continue to favor the former president.

“Trump-backing evangelicals are not going to be swayed by a particular story or set of convictions from someone like Nikki Haley,” Daniel Bennett, a political science professor at John Brown University, told Christianity Today. “They will be behind Trump.”

Bennett added that Haley’s story of her conversion as an adult may be “compelling” to “many Christians in this country who came to Christ later in life. …But at the same time, I think there are those who will be more skeptical of her because of her non-traditional background.”

Haley is Indian American and was raised Sikh by her parents. As an adult, she converted to Christianity and now attends a well-known Methodist church in South Carolina, Mt. Horeb. The church recently left the United Methodist Church to align with the newly formed Global Methodist Church.

Tim Lubinus, executive director of the Iowa Baptist Convention, who attended the Family Leader event on Friday, said he believed “most evangelical voters would prefer someone else” over Trump and that Haley “has a lot of traction here in Iowa”.

Lubinus said a series of conversations with pastors gave her the impression that many are “interested in her and her campaign” and she thought she performed well at the candidate forum over the weekend.

He added that others agreed that her rhetoric on abortion could have been stronger: “We should have a position that is clear and strong, and she was maybe a half-step behind that.”

During the first six months after launching his campaign, while his polls remained nothing impressive low, there were doubts that his time would come. Political commentators wrote his campaign. His rivals questioned his electorate. If there is to be a substantial change, now would be the time: the first test for the Republican Party’s primary candidates is less than two months away, on January 15 in the Iowa caucuses.

“I haven’t heard of a big movement toward her among evangelicals, but I’m hearing more and more of them saying, ‘You know, she could win,’ ‘I think we could easily vote for her,’” Darling. saying.

Popma thinks Haley can surprise people.

“I wouldn’t have done what I did if I didn’t think she had the ability to soar in the polls,” he said. “It was what she said, all the people around me were saying they were undecided, she gave me that feeling that the whole room could go Haley. And if you could duplicate that city by city as you pass through here for the next month and a half, who knows what could happen?

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