Former President Donald J. Trump on Friday opened one of his most targeted lines of attack yet against Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina who has emerged as one of his top competitors for the Republican nomination, accusing her of being “in the pocket” of “establishment donors.”
At a campaign rally in Sioux Center, Iowa, Mr. Trump denounced Ms. Haley as the choice of corporate elites and the political establishment. Ms. Haley has received significant financial support from wealthy donors on Wall Street and in the tech world, including the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, who is a major Democratic donor.
“Nikki Haley’s campaign is being funded by Biden donors,” Mr. Trump said to hundreds of attendees at an event space about 20 miles from the South Dakota border, referring to Ms. Haley as a “globalist.”
“She likes the globe. I like America first,” Mr. Trump said, adding that the “establishment losers and sellouts lagging far behind us in the Republican primary can’t be trusted on taxes or trade or anything else. They’re globalists, and they always will be.”
Mr. Trump also cited Ms. Haley’s recent missteps on the campaign trail, in particular her response last week to a question in New Hampshire about the causes of the Civil War. Ms. Haley did not mention slavery in her answer.
“She does not have what it takes,” Mr. Trump said.
A spokeswoman for the Haley campaign, Nachama Soloveichik, said, “If Trump feels so strongly about his false attacks, he should stop hiding and defend them on the debate stage in Des Moines.” She added that Mr. Trump “probably doesn’t remember that Nikki Haley passed one of the toughest anti-illegal immigration laws in the country in 2011, because he was still a New York City liberal.”
Mr. Trump’s increased scrutiny of Ms. Haley reflects her improved standing in the race over the past few months. For most of last year, his fiercest criticism was reserved for Mr. DeSantis, but Ms. Haley has risen in polling throughout the fall and winter. Mr. Trump continues to lead both candidates by wide margins in state and national polls.
Mr. Trump argued that his “Make America Great Again” movement had rescued the Republican Party from an elite political class intent on regaining influence by keeping him out of office.
“There’s no chance we’re going to let them claw their way back to power,” Mr. Trump said.