Haley’s Attacks on Trump Over Veterans Aren’t Working, and Could Help Biden

As the clock ticks down before next week’s Republican primary in South Carolina, Nikki Haley is looking for any way to undermine Donald J. Trump and his commanding lead, including trying a new spin on an old line of attack: that he has a history of being disrespectful to veterans.

Ms. Haley, in her quest to close the 30-plus point gap between herself and the former president, has used his disparaging remarks about her husband’s National Guard deployment to revive the criticism that Mr. Trump has routinely disparaged military troops and veterans, a voting bloc that Republicans have long counted on for support.

At recent campaign stops in the state, Ms. Haley has resurfaced a story about Mr. Trump in which he reportedly told his former chief of staff, John F. Kelly, that Americans who died in war were “losers” and “suckers” and, during a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, reportedly said of soldiers who died abroad, “I don’t get it, what was in it for them?”

Ms. Haley’s campaign has increased its focus on the subject as recent polls show her flailing in her home state, and there is widespread doubt, even among her supporters, that she will have a strong showing. Yet in raising Mr. Trump’s past comments about military personnel, Ms. Haley may be indirectly helping the Biden campaign by reinforcing an argument against Mr. Trump it made in the 2020 election — and one that is likely to return in the 2024 general election contest.

While Mr. Trump won veteran households by about 12 points in 2020, his support among them slipped by about 14 points from the 2016 election. The drop-off could be attributed, in part, to the comments Mr. Kelly claims he made and his frayed relationships with his former defense secretaries, James Mattis and Mark T. Esper.

But Mr. Trump’s critical comments about veterans were also part of his successful 2016 campaign, during which he made light of the military service of his critics, like Senator John McCain of Arizona, and feuded with the family of a Muslim Army captain who was killed in Iraq.

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