Some big money is going on Nikki Haley’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination as Americans for Prosperity (AFP) formally endorsed her campaign, promising to commit its national coalition of activists — and virtually unlimited funds — to helping her defeat former President Donald Trump in the GOP Primary contest.
“AFP Action is proud to throw our full support behind Nikki Haley, who offers America the opportunity to turn the page on the current political era, to win the Republican primary and defeat Joe Biden next November,” AFP president and CEO Emily Seidel wrote in a memo announcing the group’s decision.
“She has what it takes to lead a policy agenda to take on our nation’s biggest challenges and help ensure our country’s best days are ahead,” Seidel continued. “With the grassroots and data capability we bring to bear in this race, no other organization is better equipped to help her do it.”
Haley’s coronation as the billionaire-funded political network’s choice for President prompted some off-the-charts sarcasm from the Ron DeSantis presidential campaign — congratulating Donald Trump for the endorsement. That declaration and AFP’s snub also had Trump’s supporters sneering.
Still, Haley’s endorsement from the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) super PAC, which Charles Koch largely funds, is undoubtedly a blow to DeSantis’ White House hopes. The Governor has long portrayed himself as Republicans’ best hope for beating President Joe Biden in light of the baggage from Trump’s first term. AFP’s Tuesday endorsement alluded to the troubles Trump is facing in the form of 91 criminal indictments.
“When we announced our decision to engage in our first ever Republican Presidential primary, we made it clear that we’d be looking for a candidate who can turn the page on our political dysfunction — and win, Seidel said in a statement.
DeSantis previously had been the donor class’s darling. He had garnered seven-figure donations from billionaire investor Ken Griffin, now of Coral Gables, and trader and investor Jeffrey Yass, who is the world’s 42nd-richest person.
The DeSantis camp’s reaction to the endorsement Tuesday came at lightning speed, ridiculing the idea that Haley has a chance of winning the Primary Election.
“Like clockwork, the pro-open borders, pro-jail break bill establishment is lining up behind a moderate who has no mathematical pathway of defeating the former President,” read a prepared statement from DeSantis’ Communications Director Andrew Romeo. “Every dollar spent on Nikki Haley’s candidacy should be reported as an in-kind to the Trump campaign. No one has a stronger record of beating the establishment than Ron DeSantis, and this time will be no different.”
Trump’s supporters praised Romeo’s sarcasm with its own dose of mockery.
“The Ron DeSantis campaign finally got it right when they bitterly attacked Americans for Prosperity for being a vessel of globalist shills,” reads a statement from from Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for Trump’s super PAC Make America Great Again Inc. “That’s exactly why AFP backed Ron Desantis in his 2018 and 2022 gubernatorial races.”
The endorsement — and the DeSantis camp’s satire — only accentuates the divide between career politicians who are tools of the billionaire class and Trump, “the one man who delivers for the American people,” according to a release from Trump’s supporters.
“Americans for Prosperity has already lit millions of dollars on fire (in) this primary only to watch President Donald Trump’s lead grow,” Leavitt continued. “No amount of money can break the bond President Trump has with voters. He kept his promises.”
Haley’s endorsement means the AFP will puts its grassroots operation in 50 states into action for the first Indian American to run for President. According to an AFP news release, it also means extensive mail, digital and connected TV campaigns to supplement those efforts.
DeSantis previously had seemed a natural for AFP’s nod. He enjoyed early favor in the polls, with some earlier in the year showing him even besting the former President. But the latest polls show Haley, the former South Carolina Governor and former United Nations ambassador, gaining on him and passing him in some key states. Even the polls in Iowa show Haley poised to snatch second place there, even though DeSantis has made it a point to visit every one of the state’s 99 counties.
In recent weeks, bettors have begun rating Haley over DeSantis for winning the Republican presidential nomination and the General Election in 2024. This week, in the Primary market, Trump has an aggregated 78.4% chance of winning the nomination, with Haley in a distant second place at 11.5% and DeSantis farther back still, with a 5.7% chance, according to investors.
Florida Politics reporter A.G. Gancarski and the Associated Press contributed to this report.