July, 15

Nikki Haley: Nikki who? She cares, has passion & has the heart of a servant: Indian-American friends & donors

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WASHINGTON: Nikki Haley, the former two-term governor of South Carolina and former US ambassador to the United Nations, brings calmness to highly polarised national politics and is the only candidate to win over a major section of the Democrats without any compromise on the Republican principles and ideology, her close Indian-American friends and major donors feel.
Haley, 51, is the only woman Republican presidential aspirant to have qualified for GOP’s maiden 2024 primary debate to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 23. Wednesday’s debate is unique in the sense that for the first time, two Indian-Americans – Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy – would be in the history of a primary presidential debate from any political party.
The other GOP presidential aspirants who have qualified for the party’s primary debate on Wednesday – being telecast by Fox News – are former US president Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis; former vice president Mike Pence; South Carolina senator, Tim Scott; former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson; and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Trump on Monday announced that he would not be participating in the debate.
According to Real Clear Politics – which keeps track of all the national polls – Haley is currently ranked fifth in the average of national polls at 3.3 per cent.
As expected, Trump leads the pack with 55.5 per cent followed by DeSantis (14.5), Ramaswamy (7.9) and Pence (5.2).
In a series of interviews over the past few days ahead of Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate, the Indian-American friends and major donors of Haley said that the former governor of South Carolina brings calmness to the highly polarised nation and is the only candidate to win over a major section of the Democrats without any compromise on the Republican principles and ideology.
“We are ready. This is not the first time she’s run a race. All of us were there with her when she ran for Governor (of South Carolina). Everything once again comes back up full circle. Nikki, who? Why is she running? It’s very obvious to all of us that she’s running because she cares. She has passion, she has pride for the country, and she has the heart of a servant…She’s not entrenched in the political swamp of (Washington) DC. She is not part of that,” her old-time friend from South Carolina Bhavna Vasudeva, a successful real estate agent, told PTI in an interview.
“She’s very knowledgeable about the world. When you have a family born in India, you are so much more culturally aware of the world. So I think by far she is the most qualified candidate of all of those running,” Vasudeva said in response to a question asserting that the former South Carolina governor is “charismatic” and “empathetic.” Having been involved in many of her fundraisers, Vasudeva said that Haley has been drawing a lot of attention and support from Indian Americans across the country.
Her campaign is going up pretty well, asserted Houston-based Jiten Agarwal, CEQ QuantAi, and a major fundraiser for Haley.
“Nikki Haley has been very consistent since February when she launched her presidential bid,” he said. Having hosted several rounds of fundraisers for her, Agarwal said he has been able to gather good support for her, but some voters or some people just wanted to wait and watch to see who are the other candidates going for the primary.
“She has a moderate conservative appeal. That resonates with a lot of Indian Americans. That has been a good part. But I think this first debate… will be an inflexion point in my opinion. After that, I should be able to mobilize many more Indian Americans than I have been able to till this point,” Agarwal told PTI.
The Houston-based entrepreneur has known Haley since she ran for South Carolina governorship.
“Actually, at that time, no one thought she will win the election in South Carolina. But then she did… she won 2010, she won 2014 and then she went to the UN in President Trump’s administration. She has been doing all the right things. One thing that we all like is that we haven’t heard anything which has gone wrong when she has been the governor or the US Ambassador,” he said.
“All the right things for the US as well as in reference to India, as I talked about Pakistan. So that’s the reason we are like her. In addition to that, she’s a personal friend. So irrespective of anything, I’m going to support her,” he said.
“She will not only get Republicans, but she will get those suburban women who (are) totally misaligned, dissented with the politics right now. She might have a position on abortion. She clearly says, yeah I am unapologetically pro-life, but I’m not going to judge anyone on a woman. This is such a one quote and this has become such a divisive issue. She clearly says that don’t demonise this issue, humanise it. We don’t know what condition that young lady, a young woman might have gone through. Though, I’m not going to demonize this issue that resonates so well with the suburban women,” said Arun Agarwal, CEO of Nexxt and a major Indian-American donor from Texas.
“There won’t even be a contest if it’s Nikki Haley and Joe Biden. Because Joe Biden, again, would not get that middle vote. And she will not only get the Republican vote, but she will get… there was a few research I’m sure you have seen, which shows close to 55 per cent of Americans are right in the middle. They are not leaning ultra-right or ultra-left. They lean very middle in the policies and that’s the vote which is going to win,” he told PTI.
Responding to a question, Aggarwal said Haley has been attracting support from more Indian-Americans than Vivek Ramaswamy.
“He seems like he has amazing success in his business life. I think Nikki Haley is attracting more Indian Americans. Whereas I think Vivek is,… is speaking more Trump language in a different way. Whereas everyone agrees Trump’s policies were fantastic, how they were delivered was wrong. That’s what Nikki’s, she’s not disagreeing with Trump’s policies. And Vivek has never really talked about his heritage I really don’t know if it’s a divide in Indian-Americans or not,” Agarwal said.
“Let’s there be a poll only among Indian-Americans, Nikki wins hand down (against Vivek),” he said.
Mandeep Singh, a real-estate developer and successful entrepreneur, who has known Nikki Haley as a family friend for a long time, says that the campaign of the former UN ambassador is going pretty well.
“She’s operating efficiently from a burn rate perspective. Gulling out to the early states, kind of very much in boots on the ground type of campaign. Unlike a lot of other candidates, kind of just do interviews on national television, larger rally-type formats. I think she’s really engaging one-on-one with individuals, which I think at the end, maybe in the short term doesn’t always translate to polls, for example. But I think as the election gets closer, that kind of built-up equity between the candidate and the individual person I think goes a long way,” he said.
“She appeals to a wide range of people. I told her when I had a function at my home for her: the folks on the far right, the folks in the far left, they’re just kind of so far apart and so extreme in their thought process that I think a lot of people in the middle, like myself, I say I’m a moderate, not Republican necessarily, not Democrat necessarily. There’s a lot of people out there that I think she appeals to, and I’m one of those types of individuals,” Singh told PTI.
Privy to some of her fundraising conversations, Singh said she’s doing really well across the country, which is great that she is able to build up a lip bit of a war chest that she can go out and really reach people on a mass scale like TV ads and those sorts of things, which she hasn’t done yet, but she’s beginning to do so.

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