Will Big Donors Follow Haley Back to Trump?

Nikki Haley, the former Republican presidential hopeful, settled one of the big questions hanging over Washington by throwing her support behind Donald Trump.Credit…Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times

The Haley rationale for backing Trump

After months of speculation, Nikki Haley said — in her first appearance since dropping out of the Republican presidential primary — that she would vote for Donald Trump, the man against whom she waged a sometimes scathing campaign.

The news appeared to disappoint some supporters who explicitly endorsed her as an anti-Trump candidate. But it may provide cover to prominent donors like Ken Griffin who in recent weeks has suggested that he might come in from the cold and donate to Trump.

Deep-pocketed Republicans flocked to Haley during the primary. Among them: Griffin, who gave $5 million to her super PAC in December; Paul Singer of Elliott Management; Henry Kravis of KKR; Barry Sternlicht of Starwood Capital Group; Cliff Asness of AQR Capital Management; Stanley Druckenmiller; and Ken Langone. (Reid Hoffman, the Democratic venture capitalist and LinkedIn co-founder, also kicked in millions for her campaign.)

The draw was that she wasn’t Trump:

  • “I’m supporting Nikki because I think the nation needs to move on from the divisiveness and fear-mongering of the far left and right,” Sternlicht told The Times.

  • “I think she is just what we need right now,” Langone said on Fox News. “What Trump put this country through the last three months of his presidency was disgraceful.”

But donors are rethinking their aversion to Trump, who handily beat Haley and other rivals and is now leading President Biden in some polls. Many say they oppose Biden’s economic and immigration policies and are dismayed by White House criticism of Israel in the war in Gaza.

Griffin — who months ago said he was focusing more on Republican state and local candidates — has increasingly suggested he was open to giving to Trump. “It’s a question I’m giving serious consideration to,” he told The Times recently, and his camp has told Trump’s that he was waiting to see whether the former president would pick a traditional Republican as a running mate. Will Haley’s endorsement, such as it was, be enough justification?

The big picture: While Trump has trailed Biden in fund-raising, he significantly out-raised the sitting president last month. An outpouring from megadonors could help close the cash gap — which could be especially critical as Trump’s legal bills mount.

  • In other 2024 election news: why some prominent Silicon Valley donors have shifted rightward. And here’s a close look at Nicole Shanahan, the lawyer and ex-wife of the Google founder Sergey Brin. She’s now Robert Kennedy Jr.’s running mate.

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