Source: CNN

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Tuesday that she is releasing her delegates to the Republican National Convention and urging them to support former President Donald Trump.

“The nominating convention is a time for Republican unity. Joe Biden is not competent to serve a second term and Kamala Harris would be a disaster for America,” Haley said in a statement. “We need a president who will hold our enemies to account, secure our border, cut our debt, and get our economy back on track. I encourage my delegates to support Donald Trump next week in Milwaukee.”

The move, which was first reported by Politico, comes after Haley made clear in a May speech that she would vote for Trump, despite their acrimonious differences that cropped up during the Republican presidential primary.

Neither Haley nor Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who were among Trump’s biggest rivals in the Republican primary, are set to address the party’s convention next week. DeSantis intends to attend the Republican gathering, aides said, while Haley does not.

“She was not invited, and she’s fine with that,” Haley spokeswoman Chaney Denton told CNN. “Trump deserves the convention he wants. She’s made it clear she’s voting for him and wishes him the best.”

Haley earned 95 delegates during the Republican primary process, according to CNN’s delegate estimate. But due to state party rules, delegate estimates don’t always translate directly to how the party activists may vote during the convention roll call.

For Haley, the decision to release her delegates was all but a formality, but one that also marked a closing chapter of her quest to win the Republican presidential nomination. She emerged as the last standing rival to the former president, bowing out of the race in March before finally declaring in May: “I will be voting for Trump.”

Haley, who served as US ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, grew emboldened to speak more forcefully against her former boss as her campaign moved along. But she ultimately concluded that Trump, who she said “has not been perfect,” would be a far better choice than Biden.

Speaking at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington in May, Haley urged the former president to not ignore her supporters.

“Trump would be smart to reach out to the millions of people who voted for me and continue to support me, and not assume that they’re just going to be with him,” she said. “And I genuinely hope he does that.”

While Trump has not extended an olive branch to Haley or her supporters, the Biden campaign has closely studied the Republican primary results, aides said, even in deep-red states such as Indiana, where Haley received about 22% of the vote. The Biden campaign has sought to reach Haley’s supporters through television and digital ads in hopes of reminding them of Trump’s insults aimed at their candidate.

It’s an open question how many of those voters who backed Haley during the primary were lodging a temporary protest against Trump or actually open to supporting Biden.

Haley and Trump have spoken once since she dropped out of the race, aides said, having a brief conversation in June. While their bitter feud has dissipated, aides said, the decision not to invite Haley to Milwaukee underscored how Trump was intent on making the convention a showcase on him, rather than allowing former rivals to step into the spotlight.

It’s a notable change from 2016, when Trump accepted the party’s nomination for president the first time. The two Republicans who received the second- and third-most delegates in that campaign, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both addressed the party’s convention.

Trump also previously closed the door to selecting Haley as his running mate, declaring in May that she was “not under consideration,” but adding that he wished her well.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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