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Biden campaign writes off Nikki Haley’s chances as it turns ‘laser focus’ on Trump

With Donald Trump appearing to have a cemented himself as the Republican Party’s preferred candidate in their effort to retake control of the White House, President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign is moving into a general election mode that will see him and his allies ramp up their attacks on the ex-president and present voters with the choice of four more years of stability versus a descent into Trumpian extremism.

Top officials with Mr Biden’s campaign say the results of last night’s New Hampshire primary combined with last week’s Iowa caucus make clear that it is Mr Trump — not ex-South Carolina governor Nikki Haley — who will be their opponent in November’s presidential election, and are directing their resources accordingly.

Speaking on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, just hours after Mr Trump garnered support of more than 54 per cent of GOP voters in the Granite State, Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler said Mr Biden’s re-election apparatus wasn’t paying much mind to Ms Haley in the wake of Mr Trump’s twin victories.

“We’re just looking at the reality of the data in front of us,” said Mr Tyler, who added that the campaign has been preparing for a rematch with Mr Trump since the 46th president launched his re-election bid last April.

“Coming off of Iowa and New Hampshire, you have Donald Trump who’s fully consolidated the extreme Maga base of the party and is marching towards the nomination. So this campaign is now laser focused on presenting that direct choice to the American people because it’s real at this point in time,” he said.

Biden-Harris campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said the first-in-the-nation Republican primary results “confirm that Donald Trump has all been locked up the GOP nomination” and make clear that Mr Trump’s “election-denying, anti-freedom Maga movement” has finished executing a “complete” takeover of the Republican Party.

Ms Rodriguez said the contours of this year’s general election now “coming into increasingly sharp focus” will be that of a “choice between two visions for this country that couldn’t be more different”.

“Donald Trump is running a campaign of revenge and retribution that threatens American democracy and our fundamental freedoms. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are running to move the country forward and make life better for working people,” she said.

Privately, Biden campaign officials concede that the campaign has been preparing for a rematch with Mr Trump in part because they believe the twice-impeached, quadruply-indicted ex-president is the opponent who Mr Biden can most easily defeat in November’s election, even as some national polls continue to show the 46th president trailing the would-be 47th.

While Mr Trump remains broadly unpopular among key constituencies, including suburban women and independent voters, Mr Biden’s support has lagged in recent months among groups he easily carried in 2020, such as Black male voters, younger voters, and Arab-American and Muslim voters who are upset over the president’s strong support for Israel during that country’s months-old war against Hamas.

At recent campaign events, Mr Biden has been repeatedly interrupted by protesters shouting pro-Palestinian slogans, calling for a cease-fire in the conflict, or accusing him of supporting what they describe as “genocide”.

Mr Tyler, his campaign’s communications director, told reporters that the interruptions — and Mr Biden’s reaction to them — demonstrate the president’s commitment to the First Amendment of the US Constitution and its’ guarantees of freedom of speech.

He told reporters that Mr Biden’s approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict is one in which he acts “not through the lens of politics, but as the commander in chief of this country who is prioritising American national security and global security”.

“He's doing so a with the wisdom, judgement and experience that comes with his age ... but he's also doing it with the empathy and the decency that complex situations demand. That is why the American people elected him in the first place, and that's why they'll reelect him again,” he said.

Mr Tyler added that Mr Biden and his allies would gladly contrast the president’s values against those of Mr Trump, citing the ex-president’s continued support for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and frequent appeals to Islamophobia. He also said the president and his allies would be stepping up outreach efforts to Arab-American and Muslim communities in the coming months to highlight the difference between Mr Biden and Mr Trump.

“This campaign, this President, this administration is going to continue to listen to folks, to engage with people on the ground across the country, and we're going to continue to put up that stark contrast against Donald Trump who wants to further tear us apart and cause harm because he doesn't care about the people who he harms so long as he serves himself,” he said. “That's the contrast that we're going to present to the American people in November”.

The president’s re-election campaign is also staffing up in both key swing states and at its’ headquarters, including through the addition of two top aides to Mr Biden who spearheaded his successful 2020 election campaign against Mr Trump, Jen O’Malley Dillon and Mike Donilon.

Ms Dillon, the first woman to manage a winning Democratic presidential campaign, has served as a deputy White House chief of staff since Mr Biden took office in 2021, while Mr Donilon, a longtime confidante of the 46th president, has served as a senior adviser.

In a statement, Mr Biden said both had “served with dedication and purpose as we have delivered on a historic recovery” over his first three years in office.

He also noted that Mr Donilon had been a core member of his team since the early 1980s, while Ms Dillon has “played a key role in every Democratic presidential victory over the past two decades”.