Several of Scott’s financial backers have quickly pivoted to Haley in the days since the South Carolina senator ended his bid for the White House, as Haley jockeys with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to become the alternative to former President Donald Trump, the current front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
In one sign of growing donor enthusiasm for her campaign, billionaire hedge fund founder Ken Griffin said this week he is now considering financially backing Haley after remaining on the sidelines in the GOP primary.
“Everything I hear is folks moving to Haley,” said Eric Levine, a New York lawyer and GOP fundraiser who supported Scott’s candidacy and now is collecting campaign contributions for the former South Carolina governor. He said he plans to host a fundraiser for Haley on December 4.
Three other GOP donors – billionaire investor and philanthropist Stanley Druckenmiller, metals mogul Andy Sabin and South Carolina businessman Chad Walldorf – also have signaled they will back Haley. Additionally, Spencer Zwick, who led the fundraising efforts for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, has signed on with Haley’s fundraising team, two GOP advisers familiar with the matter told CNN. A founder of the private equity firm Solamere Capital, Zwick remains one of the most well-connected donors in the Republican Party.
“Nikki Haley has the vision, the record and the campaign apparatus to with both the primary and general election,” Zwick said in a statement. “I’m proud to support her efforts and help her build stronger relationships with donors and business leaders across the country.” Axios was first to report Zwick’s decision to join Haley’s campaign effort.
The growing list of donors taking a second look at Haley comes as a new CNN poll with the University of New Hampshire shows she has moved ahead of Trump’s other rivals among likely Republican voters in the Granite State. Trump still maintains a significant lead over the field – with 42% saying they would vote for him, but 20% say they would support Haley, a gain of 8 percentage points for the South Carolinian since the last CNN/UNH poll in September.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was in third place at 14%, DeSantis at 9% and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy at 8%. No other candidate holds more than 2% support.
The fresh interest in Haley from some of the party’s wealthiest contributors could yield a cash infusion to sustain her campaign and aligned super PAC through the early nominating contests, which kick off in two months with the Iowa caucuses. Haley’s home state of South Carolina is the fourth on the GOP calendar, and her backers view her prospects for a strong finish there as improving significantly with Scott’s departure.
In interviews, several of her new supporters specifically cited Haley’s calls for Republicans to look for consensus on abortion as a key strength in a general election.
“No Republican can win with a six-week abortion ban,” Sabin said flatly – referring to a Florida law DeSantis signed earlier this year. Sabin had supported Scott’s bid.
Walldorf said he had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the senator’s campaign. But he also has long-standing ties to Haley, having served on her transition team in 2010 as she prepared to take office as governor for the first time.
In an interview with CNN, Walldorf said Haley has “the best chance of the non-Trump candidates to win,” and he’s working to encourage other Scott donors to write checks to her campaign.
Druckenmiller, a former hedge fund manager whose net worth Forbes pegs at more than $6 billion, previously made six-figure donations to the super PACs aiding the presidential campaigns of Scott and Christie, federal records show.
Druckenmiller also donated to Haley’s campaign in September. He did not immediately respond to CNN inquiries but has declared his support for her in recent interviews with The Associated Press and CNBC. Haley also has publicly cited his backing.
Additionally, in another sign of growing interest in her candidacy, JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon has reached out to Haley to discuss economic issues and debt, she confirmed Wednesday on CNBC. Axios first reported the Dimon-Haley interaction.
“I love, you know, the idea that Jamie Dimon and Stanley Druckenmiller would be supportive,” Haley said. “We’ll take it.”
Dimon believes that Haley has a good grasp of the economy, a vision for economic growth and the ability to bring people together, banking sources say. But he has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate.
In a move that could change the financial trajectory for Haley’s campaign, Griffin – the CEO of Citadel hedge fund and one of the biggest givers in GOP politics – said he was considering throwing his financial support behind her.
“That’s a decision that we are actively contemplating,” Griffin said during an interview that aired on Bloomberg TV from his firm’s Global Macro Conference in Miami this week. “I mean, we’re at the finish line on that choice, yes or no.”
Griffin’s political moves are closely observed as a sign of the GOP establishment’s sentiment. In the 2022 election alone, he donated more than $71 million to outside groups – making him the cycle’s third-largest publicly disclosed contributor in federal races, according to OpenSecrets, which tracks campaign contributions.
Griffin, who cited national security as a top concern, also sharply criticized Trump for skipping the Republican National Committee’s primary debates, where Haley’s strong showings have helped drive interest in her campaign.
“The American public needs to see: Can Donald Trump hold his own against Nikki Haley?” Griffin said.
Haley, the former US ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration, has risen to second place in polls in some early primary states but still trails far behind the former president, who dominates in national and early state polls.
Her campaign said it raised $1 million in the 24 hours after last week’s RNC debate – the third public showdown among the dwindling field of candidates not named Trump. And on Monday, her presidential campaign announced that she had reserved $10 million in advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire in the hopes of making gains in the first two nominating contests.
Haley has not been the GOP’s top fundraiser this year – that title is held by Trump, who draws heavily on small-dollar donations to fund his campaign. But she has conserved her resources and entered October with more cash stockpiled for the primary election season than DeSantis had in his reserves, according to the most recent figures.
Abortion looms large
Griffin had donated $5 million in support of DeSantis’ 2022 gubernatorial campaign. But he indicated in recent months that he had soured on DeSantis’ candidacy, at one point calling the Florida governor’s high-profile battle with Disney “pointless,” according to CNBC.
Levine, the New York fundraiser who now backs Haley, said he supports her over DeSantis, in part, because of what he called her “rational” stance on abortion – which he hopes could help his party win over moderate voters in a general election.
He opposed DeSantis’ decision to sign a law this year that bans most abortions in Florida after six weeks of pregnancy.
Last week, Republicans suffered a string of defeats in races in Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia, where the abortion issue loomed large. Those were just the latest elections to demonstrate voter support for abortion rights since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
Haley, who has said she is firmly against abortion, also argues that it’s unrealistic to believe there are the votes in the US Senate to pass a national ban on the procedure and has sought to cast herself as seeking the compassionate middle ground on an issue that divides Americans.
“The Democrats have two issues: They have abortion, and they have Trump,” Levine said. “I’m working really hard not to nominate Trump, and Ron DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban in Florida makes him unelectable. Nikki Haley is the only one on that stage who is able to articulate a rational position on abortion.”
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Eva McKend, Jennifer Agiesta, Ariel Edwards-Levy, Ebony Davis, David Wright and Matthew Egan contributed to this report.