Nikki Haley: Biden campaign official meets with her supporters hours after she said she’d vote for Trump



CNN
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A Biden campaign official met Wednesday night with Nikki Haley supporters from across several states in a pre-scheduled Zoom call hours after the former Republican presidential candidate said she would be voting for Donald Trump, two sources familiar with the call told CNN.

The meeting was part of an ongoing effort by the Biden campaign to reach out to Haley voters. It was organized by the Haley Voters Working Group.

Conservative Haley backers from Virginia, Massachusetts, Vermont, California, Florida, Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina joined the call, including members of Haley’s former state leadership teams and the organization Women for Nikki.

The call, which one source characterized as a constructive initial step, began with a Q&A session for about 35 minutes with the Biden campaign official, who wanted to know which policy issues were most important to the Haley supporters. Another source confirmed that the official on the call was Juan Peñalosa, the deputy political director for President Joe Biden’s campaign.

After Peñalosa left the call, the source said the conversation continued among the group, with a “few moments of mourning” over Haley’s decision to back Trump along with a recognition that it wasn’t a full-throated endorsement.

“Trump would be smart to reach out to the millions of people who voted for me and continue to support me, and not assume that they’re just going to be with him. And I genuinely hope he does that,” Haley said Wednesday at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington.

Robert Schwartz, the executive director of the Haley Voters Working Group, said that despite the disappointment over the former South Carolina governor saying she would vote for Trump, there was an understanding that this was a choice she was likely to make.

“A lot of these people in this group are big supporters of Nikki Haley and want to support her in 2028,” he said. “They’re legit Republicans and conservatives, and so they don’t want to see Trump destroy the party.”

As some Republican voters continue to show support for Haley in primaries since she left the presidential race in March, the Biden campaign is focused on expanding its outreach and talking to these voters, especially in battleground states.

The campaign stressed to CNN that this is part of a larger outreach program targeting GOP voters, which will include dedicated staff and grassroots-driven efforts as the general election approaches.

The campaign issued a press release Thursday afternoon entitled “To Haley Voters: There’s a Home For You on Team Biden-Harris.”

“While Donald Trump continues to attack moderate Republican and independent voters, the Biden campaign is investing to talk to these voters and working to earn their support,” the release read.

Schwartz concurred with that sentiment.

“While Trump has done absolutely nothing to gain the support of Haley voters and takes them for granted, Biden and his campaign are actively reaching out to build a coalition of Republicans and they know they need to earn their vote. We welcome their initial engagements and know they plan to do much more in the coming months,” he said.

On the call Wednesday, the Haley voters raised some of their pressing policy concerns with Peñalosa, including the southern border, Ukraine and Israel. Amanda Stewart Sprowls, a Haley supporter from Arizona, expressed a desire for an executive order or some type of strong action from Biden to address the US-Mexico border.

The Daily Beast was first to report on the Zoom call.

Describing herself as “politically homeless,” Alissa Baker, of Ashburn, Virginia, who was on Haley’s Virginia leadership team, told CNN she’s undecided and looking at all her options, including Biden.

Baker heard the initial message from Biden that there’s a place for Haley voters in his campaign. The call with Peñalosa, she said, was the start of a conversation and an opportunity for him to express what that really means.

“Don’t keep telling us, ‘Democracy is on the ballot,’ like, we get it,” she said. “We get that Trump’s a problem. Like, you don’t have to tell us, you know, so we wanted to move past that and have that substantive discussion.”

Asked what it would take for the Trump campaign to earn her vote, Baker said, “I don’t know that they think they have to earn our vote.”

“I think that they assume that we’ll just come home, which is a very bad assumption,” she added.

Chris Rauen of Paradise, California, is a former Haley supporter who was also on the call. He identifies as a Reagan Republican and is leaning toward Biden right now.

To earn his vote, Rauen told CNN he wants the Biden campaign to “move a little bit more to the center” on some foreign policy issues and “hear less of the raising of taxes.”

Rauen was “deeply disappointed” when he heard Haley say that she is voting for Trump.

Stewart Sprowls – a lifelong Republican, business owner and mom of three – is concerned about employment, criminal activity in border states and the “real threat” of fentanyl in Arizona.

“We need Biden to deliver on centrist policy over the next six months, and an executive order to close the border would go a long way,” she added.

As for Trump, Stewart Sprowls said at this point she is not voting for him.

“He has not reached out to Haley Republicans,” she said. “I do not agree with Trump’s populist economic policies and his divisiveness. I also strongly disagree with Trump’s stance on Ukraine.”

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.


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