Nikki Haley, the 51-year-old former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, officially jumped into the 2024 presidential race Wednesday with a rally in Charleston, South Carolina.
“We’re ready to move past the stale ideas and faded names of the past, and we are more than ready for a new generation to lead us into the future,” Haley said. She also called for mandatory “mental competency tests” for politicians over age 75. President Joe Biden is 80 and former president Donald Trump is 76.
Trump, who was the first Republican to launch a 2024 presidential bid, hit back quickly, as is his style. The former president’s campaign put out a press release titled “The Real Nikki Haley” slamming the new rival in the field for past support for Social Security cuts and turning Medicare into a voucher system.
“Trump has leaned into attacking his current and potential 2024 rivals on entitlements, looking to exploit divisions in the Republican Party over the issue — just as President Biden and the Democrats are doing,” Nathaniel Weixel writes at The Hill.
Trump has publicly warned Republicans against cutting Social Security and Medicare. Weixel notes that Trump broke from GOP orthodoxy on entitlement programs when he first ran for president and pledged to “save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — without cuts” — but that, once in office, Trump proposed cuts to those programs in his budgets.
The bottom line: While President Biden has been attacking Republicans over plans that could threaten Social Security and Medicare benefits, the future of those programs could be a potent issue in a hotly contested 2024 Republican presidential primary contest. As The Washington Post’s Isaac Arnsdorf wrote recently: “The emphasis reflects potential vulnerability for Republican rivals who were elected to powerful posts in the pre-Trump tea party era, embracing austerity in the last showdown over raising the federal debt limit.”