Nikki Haley vs Donald Trump: What do they stand for

Donald Trump and Nikki Haley are the only two Republican's left fighting it out for the nomination
Donald Trump and Nikki Haley are the only two major candidates left fighting it out for the Republican nomination

The crowded field of Republican candidates has been whittled down to just a handful as the primary season continues.

Donald Trump shows little sign of losing his grip on the party – and Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, is the only other person left in the race.

The former president appointed Ms Haley UN ambassador during his time in the White House, but has frequently lashed out at her after she announced she would stand against him in the contest.

Ms Haley, for her part, has intensified her criticisms of her former boss. She continues to lag well behind him in the polls and suffered a crushing defeat on Super Tuesday.

Not all of this is rhetoric. There are genuine differences between the pair – notably in their outlook on international affairs.

Mr Trump has refused the former governor’s frequent appeals for a debate. In the absence of a face-off between the two, we have compared where they stand on the key issues of the presidential election.

Where they stand on:

Gun control





Trans rights



Gun control

Nikki Haley

Ms Haley has said she opposes tighter gun restrictions and stands against expanding background checks.

In the wake of the school shooting last year in Nashville, Tennessee, in which six children and staff members were killed, she said blaming gun legislation was “the lazy way out”.

The real problem was mental health, she argued, adding: “The whole issue is [the shooter] was struggling and there was nobody there to help her.”

As governor of South Carolina, she put her name to a law allowing people with concealed weapon permits to bring their guns into bars.

Donald Trump

Mr Trump, meanwhile, has a more complex history on legislation around gun ownership.

During his time in the White House, Mr Trump voiced support for tougher checks on firearms purchasers but later dropped this stance. He also once proposed raising the minimum age to buy guns to 21.

In 2017, he angered gun-rights supporters by imposing a ban on bump stocks, a device which allows a shooter to fire a semi-automatic weapon much more rapidly, after one was used in a mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Despite this, Mr Trump has received praise for putting conservative judges who are inclined to protect gun rights on the federal bench.

In May, he vowed to defend and expand gun owners’ rights in a speech to the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting.

Donald Trump participates in a 'Get Out The Vote Rally' campaign event
Donald Trump participates in a 'Get Out The Vote Rally' campaign event - Shutterstock

Illegal immigration

Nikki Haley

Despite being painted as a “globalist” who is relaxed on illegal immigration, Ms Haley enacted a series of crackdowns during her time as South Carolina governor.

A raft of controversial laws included a requirement for police to check the immigration status of people they stopped or arrested, if they were suspected of entering the country illegally.

Critics claimed the move would lead to racial profiling, and it was challenged in the courts by Barack Obama’s administration.

Ms Haley has used this as a badge of honour on the campaign trail. “We passed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country,” she said at a rally in February.

“President Obama sued us over it, and we won.”

Donald Trump

As a candidate in 2016, Mr Trump vowed to “strengthen and expand” E-verify, a federal database for checking the legal status of workers, but later said it was a difficult process for employers.

Mr Trump has also pledged to end “birthright citizenship” and that children of “illegal aliens” born in the US would be denied passports, social security benefits and social security numbers.

He has also proposed the death penalty for human traffickers.

One of his most famous pledges in 2016 was to build a “big, beautiful wall” to end illegal migration, and to make the Mexican government pay for it.

Donald Trump in Columbia, South Carolina
Donald Trump in Columbia, South Carolina - Getty Images

Ukraine war

Nikki Haley

Ms Haley has taken a drastically different stance to Mr Trump’s isolationism, calling for more US aid to Ukraine to repel the Russian invasion.

A Republican in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, she believes the move will prevent the US being dragged into a war to defend its Nato allies.

“This is about preventing war — it’s always been about preventing war,” she said at a Republican debate in January. “If we support Ukraine, that’s only 3.5 percent of our defence budget.”

She has fiercely criticised her former boss on the issue, claiming Mr Trump is “weak at the knees” with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

Donald Trump

Mr Trump has said he would resolve the Ukraine war in a single day, prompting fears that he could pressure Ukraine into handing land over to Vladimir Putin.

In a video uploaded on social media, he called the conflict a “proxy battle” that risks another world war breaking out.

“We must be absolutely clear that our objective is to immediately have a total cessation of hostilities,” he added. “All shooting has to stop. This is the central issue. We need peace without delay.”


Nikki Haley

Ms Haley, a former UN ambassador, sees Nato as a bulwark against Russian aggression and favours expanding the alliance.

When Mr Trump said he would encourage Russia to invade Nato members who did not meet their spending obligations, she labelled the comments “bone-chilling”.

“All he did in that one moment was empower Putin,” she said. She has previously argued that Ukraine should be brought into Nato.

During her time at the UN, Ms Haley said she worked to “deepen cooperation” with Nato members while “keeping the door open to new allies”.

Nikki Haley during a campaign rally in South Carolina
Nikki Haley during a campaign rally in South Carolina - AFP

Donald Trump

The former president’s commitment to “America First” has fuelled his growing isolationism and a cooler approach towards the alliance.

“Our foreign policy establishment keeps trying to pull the world into conflict with a nuclear-armed Russia based on the lie that Russia represents our greatest threat,” he has said.

“But the greatest threat to Western civilisation today is not Russia. It’s probably, more than anything else, ourselves.”

In February, Mr Trump said he would “encourage” Vladimir Putin to invade countries which did not spend at least two per cent of the GDP annually on defence.


Nikki Haley

Ms Haley has positioned herself as a China hawk in the Republican race, saying she views them as “the enemy”.

As president, she said she would cut off its access to US oil and build up the military “because China now has the strongest naval fleet in the world”.

Ms Haley also said she would end Chinese “infiltration” of universities and end normal trade relations until it stopped allowing fentanyl, a deadly opioid, to enter the country.

She came under fire from Republican rivals during the race for recruiting a Chinese fibreglass company to create a factory in South Carolina during her time as governor.

Donald Trump

Mr Trump is credited with shifting the American political consensus toward confronting China and has promised to continue opposing Beijing if he returns to the White House.

He is calling for the removal of China’s most-favoured-nation trade status, as well as the phasing out of all Chinese imports of pharmaceuticals, electronics, steel and other essential goods over four years.

He has also pledged to prevent Chinese ownership of key US infrastructure.

“To protect our country, we need to enact aggressive new restrictions on Chinese ownership of any vital infrastructure in the United States, including energy, technology, telecommunications, farmland, natural resources, medical supplies, and other strategic national assets,” Mr Trump said in January.

“When I’m president, I will ensure that America’s future remains firmly in American hands just as I did when I was president before.”

Transgender rights

Nikki Haley

Ms Haley has described trans women competing in girl’s sports as the “women’s issue of our time”.

“How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker rooms?” she asked in a campaign event last year.

“And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year,” she continued. “We should be growing strong, confident girls.”

She has also argued that gender pronoun classes in the military are “too much” and the result of a small minority of activists pushing their beliefs onto the majority of Americans.

Ms Haley has said that children should not undergo sex changes until they are 18.

Donald Trump

Mr Trump has been vocal in his opposition to transgender rights.

When he announced his White House bid in November, Mr Trump said schools were endorsing “gender insanity” by letting trans women and girls compete in female sports.

Speaking to the National Rifle Association in May, Mr Trump promised to use the federal government’s powers to investigate gender-reassignment care for transgender Americans.

He has also vowed to reinstate the transgender ban in the US armed forces. He also said he would stop the Department of Veterans Affairs funding transgender surgeries.


Nikki Haley

Ms Haley has sought to carve out a moderate stance on the issue of abortion, saying she is “pro-life” but does not judge anyone who takes a different view.

Rather than imposing a federal limit on abortion, she said she would allow states to “find consensus on their own to figure out what they want to do”.

Asked if she would have signed a six-week abortion ban as governor of South Carolina, if passed by the legislature, she said: “Yes, whatever the people decide.”

Ms Haley has said her pro-life stance comes from the fact that her husband was adopted and her difficulties having children.

Abortion remains a contentious issue in the US
Abortion remains a contentious issue in the US - Reuters

Donald Trump

Although Mr Trump delivered the most significant victory in the anti-abortion movement’s history by nominating the three Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v Wade, he has drawn criticism for refusing to adopt a stance on national legislation.

Mr Trump muddled his position even further by declining to say what the limit on abortion should be during the recent CNN town hall debate in New Hampshire.

“Some people are at six weeks, some people are at three weeks, two weeks,” Mr Trump said.

He has also criticised the six-week abortion ban as unduly harsh. Mr Trump blamed the Republicans’ poor showing in the mid-term elections on the party’s tough line on abortion.

The former president has privately expressed support for a 16-week abortion ban in conversations with allies and advisors, US media reports.


Nikki Haley

Ms Haley said she would “neuter” the department of education – stopping short of Republican calls to dissolve it altogether.

Power should be transferred from the federal government to the states, she has said, arguing: “Let the states decide what education looks like in their states.”

Ms Haley has also raised concerns about slipping standards across the US, calling for remedial classes to ensure that children are not left behind and to bring back vocational training.

Amid concerns about “woke” agendas being pushed by schools, she argues that teachers must be “transparent”.

“No parent should ever wonder what’s being said or taught to their child in the classroom,” she said.

Donald Trump

Mr Trump has pledged to impose “real standards” in higher education and “reclaim our once great educational institutions from the radical Left”.

His administration would see a purge of those he holds responsible for allowing colleges and universities to become “dominated by Marxist Maniacs and lunatics.”

He also said he would direct the Department of Justice to take action against schools which engage in “racial discrimination” – in this case, outlawing affirmative action favouring African-American students.