Nikki Haley Seeks Secret Service Protection Amid New Threats

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AMHERST, NEW HAMPSHIRE: With 4 days to go until the New Hampshire primary, Republican Presidential candidate Nikki Haley after meeting and speaking to diners at Mary Anne's Diner she walks to her SUV flanked by secur... AMHERST, NEW HAMPSHIRE: With 4 days to go until the New Hampshire primary, Republican Presidential candidate Nikki Haley after meeting and speaking to diners at Mary Anne's Diner she walks to her SUV flanked by security in Amherst, New Hampshire on Friday January 19, 2024. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Nikki Haley, the sole remaining challenger to Donald Trump in the GOP presidential primary, has asked for Secret Service protection in the face of new threats against her, she confirmed in an interview today with the Wall Street Journal.

The decision to seek Secret Service protection comes after two weeks of vitriol directed toward her by Trump. Coming out of the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 23, Haley was the last candidate standing and has refused to cede the nomination, setting her sites on her home state of South Carolina, which is holding its GOP primary on Feb. 24.

Trump turned up the rhetoric a notch or two after New Hampshire, derisively calling her “birdbrain,” intentionally mangling her given name and promoting a false birther conspiracy about her, threatening to cut off Haley donors from MAGA world, and darkly alluding to scandals lurking in her closet. But it’s not just Trump. “Over the past few days, online influencers with close ties to the Trump campaign have begun posting misogynistic, highly sexualized videos and images of Ms. Haley on social media,” the NYT reported the day after the New Hampshire primary.

“We’ve had multiple issues,” Haley told the WSJ. “It’s not going to stop me from doing what I need to do.”

Neither Haley nor her campaign provided details about those “issues,” but we know what happens when Trump and the MAGA hordes target people. Haley has been the target of two swatting attempts in recent days. A woman rushed the stage at a Haley event in South Carolina last week. So far, Haley has been relying on a private security detail for protection. Reporters had noticed a heightened security presence at her South Carolina events compared to previous events in Iowa and New Hampshire.

For her part, Haley has been stepping up the rhetorical attacks on Trump, but they have been of the more traditional variety you’d expect in a campaign. It’s important to distinguish old-fashioned bare-knuckled politicking from the incipient political violence Trump has been cultivating. If anywhere knows hardball politics, it’s South Carolina.

“Now we’re dealing with a whole other level of vitriol, and politics have gotten exponentially more ugly,” a GOP political consultant in South Carolina told the NYT a couple of weeks ago. “She’s going to get hit from all sides with every innuendo and with every grudge that remains from when she was governor.”

But those kinda of mudslinging attacks are not what give rise to asking for Secret Service protection. It’s the direct personal threats to the candidate and their family that triggers this kind of protection. During the 2008 cycle, Barack Obama started receiving Secret Service protection in May 2007. The full story of the threat matrix facing the first Black president has yet to be told.

Haley — a woman with Sikh parents — might be at extra risk regardless. But it’s the atmosphere of political violence created by Trump, who celebrates it, encourages it, and whips up frenzied crowds with the promise of violence, whether on the campaign trail or on the Ellipse, that is a hallmark of this era. Trump has crossed the Rubicon and it’s going to be a very long time before we get back a peaceable politics.

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