February 25, 2024

With U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at his side (L), U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a working lunch with ambassadors of countries on the UN Security Council at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2017.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has been throwing harder punches at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, days before her make-or-break New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.

The former U.N. ambassador on Sunday took shots at Trump’s mental acuity, his cozy relations with foreign dictators and his position as an establishment figure. She has honed these criticisms over the past week as the New Hampshire primary effectively became a two-person race between her and the former president.

Haley took aim at Trump’s mental fitness after footage from one of his rallies showed him attributing the Jan. 6 insurrection to Haley, repeating her name four times, apparently mistaking her for former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“If you have someone that’s 80 in office, their mental stability is going to continue to decline. That’s just human nature,” Haley said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

She also railed against Trump’s friendly relations with authoritarian governments, pointing to his “bromance with Putin” and “love letters going back and forth to Kim Jong Un.”

More recently, at a New Hampshire campaign event on Sunday, Trump commended Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has chipped away at the country’s democratic systems.

“Some people don’t like him because he’s too strong. It’s nice to have a strongman running the country,” he said.

“You can’t have someone who’s trying to buddy up with dictators that want to kill us. Instead, you have to let them know what we expect of them,” Haley said.

Dedicating her talking points to Trump attacks is a marked shift from Haley, who before the Iowa caucuses had primarily gone after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, her main competitor for second place. But as DeSantis shrinks to a distant third place in New Hampshire and donors put pressure on her to secure a victory, she has become more comfortable focusing her energy on anti-Trump indictments.

A month ago, Haley’s position on Trump was decidedly more avoidant. In a December interview on ABC’s “This Week,” she seemed exasperated by persistent questions about Trump.

“You guys are exhausting. You’re exhausting in your obsession with him. The thing is, normal people aren’t obsessed with Trump like you guys are,” Haley said in the interview.

“If you want to talk about Trump, if you really want to talk about Trump, why don’t you go ask him if he’s gonna get on a debate stage?” she added.

Haley has now followed Trump’s lead and bowed out of the New Hampshire debates where she would have faced off with DeSantis for the sixth time.