Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley makes a campaign stop at the Portland Elks Club on Sunday evening. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley urged supporters at a campaign rally in Portland on Sunday to move past “two 80-year-old candidates” and to turn out in force to support a new generation of leadership in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

“Now is the time for us to be loud and let everybody know that America is better than what we see right now,” Haley said. “We can do something where we have a new-generation leader that will put in eight years, day and night, of hard work, no negativity, no vendettas, no drama – just real results for the American people.”

Supporters filed into the Portland Elks Lodge on Sunday night just two days before Super Tuesday, which political observers believe could be Haley’s last stand against former President Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. Haley delivered a 30-minute speech that was nearly identical to one she delivered in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, where she criticized Trump’s isolationist policies and admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley embraces Alicia Manocha, of Ogunquit, during a campaign stop at the Portland Elks Club on Sunday evening. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In a sit-down interview with the Press Herald before the rally, Haley touched on a wide range of topics, including immigration, homelessness, housing, veterans and how long her campaign can last without a primary win.

Haley said she blames both Trump and Biden for the increase in the national debt, growth of government and surge in illegal immigration. She said Trump has made the Republican Party about himself, rather than GOP ideals, and that the party has been losing statewide elections since Trump became its leader.

“Everything he touches, we lose,” Haley told the Press Herald. “How many more things do we have to lose before we realize that maybe Donald Trump is the problem?”


Haley also accused Trump of trying to make the Republican National Committee his “legal slush fund,” highlighting how he has already spent $60 million of his own campaign funds on lawyers defending him in four separate criminal cases. The RNC is considering a resolution to prohibit its funds from being used on Trump’s legal cases.

Political observers believe Super Tuesday could spell the end of Haley’s campaign. But Haley was defiant both on stage and during the interview with the Press Herald.

“As long as 70% of Americans don’t want Donald Trump or Joe Biden, we think there needs to be options,” Haley told the Press Herald. “There are stark differences between us.”

When asked whether she saw Maine – a blue-leaning state with a high percentage of independent voters, who can vote in the primary for the first time this year – as a unique opportunity, Haley responded that her first trip to Maine was about reaching as many voters as possible.

This is about being anywhere and everywhere and touching as many hands as possible,” she told the Press Herald.

Among the rally attendees Sunday was Tony Rogers, a 66-year-old Republican from South Portland, who said he doesn’t plan to support Trump in November.


“I need to hear about less government,” Roger said. “I need to hear how she’s going to put American first.”

Lorraine Gallagher, a 68-year-old Republican from Standish, attended the rally with her husband, Dennis, a 74-year-old Democrat who is supporting Biden. Lorraine Gallagher is an enthusiastic supporter of Haley, who she described as “intelligent, inspiring and vivacious.”

“I really dislike Donald Trump as a woman and businesswoman,” Gallagher said. “I don’t like Biden either.”

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign stop at the Portland Elks Club on Sunday evening. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Haley, a former United Nations ambassador, is the last remaining major nomination challenger to Trump, who has cleared the field of 13 other challengers, despite being found guilty of business fraud in New York and facing ongoing criminal charges concerning efforts to overturn the 2020 elections results and hush money payments to an adult film star.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, recently announced that she is backing Haley, after previously saying in January that she would not support either Trump or Haley this fall.

“I voted for Nikki Haley in the Maine primary,” Collins said in a statement. “Her experience as a successful Governor and as a strong representative of our country as ambassador to the United Nations makes her extremely well-qualified to serve as our first female president. She has the energy, intellect, and temperament that we need to lead our country in these very tumultuous times.”


Collins did not attend Haley’s rally on Sunday. But the Haley campaign touted Collins’ support in a text message to supporters ahead of the event.

During the rally, Haley thanked Collins for her support, while “all of the fellas were following the herd” and supporting Trump.

“Thank you for showing the fellas you have got more balls than them,” Haley said.

Nikki Haley signs a poster for Craig Heavey, of Oakland, on Sunday evening. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, is focusing on the general election against Biden.

“Republican voters have delivered resounding wins for President Trump in every single primary contest and this race is over,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said after Haley unveiled her campaign team and endorsements in Maine on Tuesday. “Our focus is now on Joe Biden and the general election.”

Two recent polls show Trump with a commanding lead over Haley in Maine, with a majority of likely Republican primary voters saying they’re enthusiastic about his candidacy.


The Maine Republican Party has firmly backed Trump throughout the primaries. Neither party Chairman Joel Stetkis nor Executive Director Jason Savage responded to questions sent by email Sunday about Haley’s campaign appearance in Maine.

It’s unclear what resources Haley’s campaign is devoting to Maine. A spokesperson said the campaign has made a seven-figure ad buy in the 16 states voting Tuesday but would not say how much of that was targeted at Maine. Public records for Maine’s network stations indicate ad buys in late January, likely for the New Hampshire primary, but nothing since then.

This is the first year that unenrolled voters can participate in a presidential primary in Maine without registering with a political party, which could present an opportunity for Haley, though it’s unlikely to lead to a crush of last-minute support in a state that is less familiar with her candidacy.

As of Friday, more than 5,000 unenrolled Maine voters had requested absentee ballots, but the secretary of state’s office hasn’t provided information about how many have participated in the Republican primary.

So far, Democrats have requested the most absentee ballots, with more than 19,000, compared to nearly 11,600 for Republicans.

Haley has portrayed herself as a true fiscal conservative, blaming both Trump and Biden for the nation’s rising debt. She’s also arguing that she would be a stronger general election candidate.


According to polling averages from RealClearPolitics, Haley holds a 5.1 percentage point lead over Biden in a head-to-head matchup, compared to Trump’s 2.3 percentage point lead over the president, as of Sunday morning.

On Sunday night, Haley took the stage to the song “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” and concluded her speech with “My Generation.”

Nikki Haley waves while making a campaign stop at the Portland Elks Club on Sunday evening. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Her speech was briefly interrupted by two Trump supporters; the crowd chanted “Nikki!” as they were escorted out of the building.

Haley blamed Trump for urging congressional Republicans to vote against a bipartisan bill to secure the border, which immigration advocates called one of the most conservative proposals in decades. She said the bill contained important reforms to the asylum process, which she would have liked to see strengthened.

Trump opposed the border bill and called on Republican lawmakers to do the same because passage might have helped Biden in November.

“We can’t wait one more day to pass a strong border bill,” Haley told the crowd.


In the interview, Haley said she would prioritize reforms of legal immigration over changes that would allow them to work sooner – a proposal endorsed by Collins and business associations.

“I don’t think we allow them to cut the line,” she said of asylum seekers. “You’ve got a lot of people waiting in line that have put in the time and put in the price to come here legally. When we let people come through the border illegally, we’re letting them jump the line, and we can’t have that.”

Haley told supporters she is not worried about her political future, repeating again that she is not running to be vice president. She framed her candidacy as a return to normalcy, accusing both Biden and Trump of toxic political discourse and creating an “umbrella of anger and division” that is driving high rates of anxiety among children.

“Our kids deserve to know what normal feels like,” Haley said. “It’s not normal when Joe Biden calls his opponents fascists and Donald Trump calls his opponents vermin.”

Haley’s weekend swing through New England also included stops in Massachusetts and Vermont. Her campaign will travel to Texas on Monday.

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