NEW YORK (AP) — Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the powerful Koch network, formally endorsed Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign on Tuesday, promising to commit its nationwide army of activists — and virtually unlimited funds — to helping Haley defeat former President Donald Trump in the GOP primary contest.
“AFP Action is proud to throw our full support behind Nikki Haley, who offers America the opportunity to turn the page on the current political era, to win the Republican primary and defeat Joe Biden next November,” AFP president and CEO Emily Seidel wrote in a memo announcing the group’s decision. “She has what it takes to lead a policy agenda to take on our nation’s biggest challenges and help ensure our country’s best days are ahead. With the grassroots and data capability we bring to bear in this race, no other organization is better equipped to help her do it.”
Americans for Prosperity, perhaps the most powerful conservative organization in the nation, was already actively working to undermine Trump’s presidential bid through a series of attack ads and door-way conversations with primary voters. But now, Seidel said the organization would immediately begin refocusing its efforts on boosting Haley’s primary and general election campaigns with strategic advertising investments, mailers and voter contacts through the group’s network of thousands of conservative activists.
The decision marks a particularly painful blow to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an ally of the organization, who had championed conservative priorities in Florida, but struggled to emerge as the clear Trump alternative in the 2024 GOP primary contest.
“Gov DeSantis has been a tremendous leader of rate state of Florida,” Seidel said in a Tuesday conference call. “But all of the evidence we’ve already shared on this call point to the fact that Nikki Haley is the strongest candidate in this race and that’s why we decided to support her.”
The DeSantis camp was not pleased.
In a statement, DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo likened the Koch endorsement to a contribution to the Trump campaign.
“Congratulations to Donald Trump on securing the Koch endorsement. Like clockwork, the pro-open borders, pro-jail break bill establishment is lining up behind a moderate who has no mathematical pathway of defeating the former president,” Romeo wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Every dollar spent on Nikki Haley’s candidacy should be reported as an in-kind to the Trump campaign. No one has a stronger record of beating the establishment than Ron DeSantis, and this time will be no different.”
The endorsement helps Haley address what may have been her biggest strategic liability. While she has seized some momentum in the polls, he campaign lacked the same level of infrastructure on the ground in key primary states as DeSantis and Trump.
“I’m honored to have the support of Americans for Prosperity Action, including its millions of grassroots members all across the country,” Nikki Haley said in a statement. “AFP Action’s members know that there is too much at stake in this election to sit on the sidelines. This is a choice between freedom and socialism, individual liberty and big government, fiscal responsibility and spiraling debt. We have a country to save, and I’m grateful to have AFP Action by our side.”
AP writer Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina contributed.