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Not very long ago, the harshest thing Nikki Haley would say about Donald Trump was that chaos follows hima sort of benign jab that creatively avoids causation and suggests mere correlation, like noting that scorched trees tend to appear after a forest fire.

For most of the Republican-primary campaign to date, Haley adopted a carefully modulated approach toward the former president, and reserved most of her barbs for her other primary rivals. Her motto seemed to be Speak softly about Trump and carry a sharp stick for Vivek Ramaswamy. Recently, though, Haley has made a hard pivot.

Read: What Nikki Haley (maybe) learned in New Hampshire

Just two days after she came in (a distant) second to Trump in the New Hampshire primary, she began fundraising for the first time off his attacks on herselling T-shirts with the slogan BARRED PERMANENTLY after the former president said that anyone who continues to support her will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp, whatever that means.

In the past week, Haley has been on a tear, calling Trump totally unhinged, toxic, self-absorbed, and lacking in moral clarity. Her campaign unleashed a new attack-ad series in which Trump and President Joe Biden are portrayed as two grumpy old men standing in the way of the next generation. And yesterday, Haley posted a gag photo of a Trump Halloween costume labeled Weakest General Election Candidate Ever. To paraphrase the words of the Democratic-primary candidate Marianne Williamson, Girlfriend, this is so on.

Such an aggressive posture is new for Haley, and Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans have applauded her for it. She should have been talking this way all along, some of her supporters argue. If she started it sooner, she wouldve cut the lead in New Hampshire, Chip Felkel, a Republican strategist in South Carolina, told me. In his view, Haley thought she had to play nice to win over Trump voters: But this aint a nice game.

Can Haley still achieve anything by playing hardball at this point? Things dont look promising. Her bid to defeat Trump is already the longest of long shots, based on the polls coming out of virtually every state, including Haleys own South Carolina. So whats the point of changing things up? Why muster the courage to smack-talk Trump now, when the race seems all but over? I asked a number of political strategists and experts for their view, and pieced together a few plausible theories. (Neither the Haley nor the Trump campaign responded to a request for comment.)

1. Attacking Trump is easier now.
The most obvious theory for Haleys more combative rhetoric is that with only one other major candidate still in the primary, the task of drawing a direct contrast with Trump is much simpler. If you have six people in a race and a couple are attacking a couple others, its hard to predict how thats going to work in terms of driving your ballots, David Kochel, a longtime Iowa Republican strategist, told me. When its a multi-candidate field, youve got to tell your own story. After Iowa, thats resolved, he said, and so she has no choice but to turn her attention to Trump.

The jabs are meant to draw Trump outto pressure him to join her on a debate stage or to provoke a tantrum that turns off his potential voters and motivates her own. She needs him to make a mistake, Kochel said. She needs some intervening activity, some dynamic that is not completely in her control.

Maybe this is a good moment for Haley to exploit Trumps weakness with women voters. In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, Biden beats Trump with the support of women, a new Quinnipiac poll showed, and that gender gap appears to be growing. Last week, Haley dragged Trump over his defamation-case loss to E. Jean Carroll, in which he was ordered to pay $83 million in additional defamation damages to the woman whom he was previously found liable for defaming and sexually abusing. Haley is running the Taylor Swift strategy in the primary, Steve Bannon, Trumps former White House chief strategist, told me. Shes playing to the Trump is toxic womens vote. The pop stars apparent potential to influence Americans, and especially women, to vote Democratic, coupled with the results of the Quinnipiac poll, represent deep, underlying forces that need to be addressed, Bannon saidsomething Haley will continue to seize on.

2. Haleys anti-Trump rhetoric represents the death throes of her campaign.
Haleys campaign has followed the same trajectory as several other Republicans efforts in the Trump era: They might have avoided attacking him directly at first, but when their prospects dimmed, they lashed out. Marco Rubio mocked Trumps small hands just before dropping out of the race; Ted Cruz called Trump a pathological liar at the tail end of his own campaign. It seems like they all have consultants in their ear telling them if they take on Trump directly, they are going to crater support with the base, which is true, Tim Miller, a political consultant and writer at the conservative outlet The Bulwark, told me. Then, finally, when theyre up against the wall and in the final stages, they figure its worth a shot.

Read: What is Nikki Haley even talking about?

Maybe ratcheting up the combativeness is a form of emotional catharsis. When I asked the Democratic strategist James Carville about Haleys change in approach, he texted me that Haley is tired, scared & pissed off. Because shes trailing Trump in her own state, certain doom in SC is eating at her. NEVER discount the human element. Haley now sounds a lot more like she did behind closed doors during the Trump administration, Mike Murphy, a Republican consultant, told me, citing conversations hes had with former Haley staffers. This is Nikki therapy, he said. Shes just having fun poking him in the eye, getting all her ya-yas out. Its the most entertaining dead-cat bounce in history.

3. Haley is giving her donors what they want.
Haleys billionaire supporters adore this new, aggressively anti-Trump candidate, and theyre rewarding her with cash. Nikkis more aggressive posture toward Trump was welcomed as it is communicating the stark choice in front of the party, Bill Berrien, the CEO of the manufacturer Pindel Global Precision, who hosted a fundraiser for Haley in New York, told The Washington Post. Cliff Asness, a co-founder of AQR Capital Management and a Haley donor, wrote on X that, in response to Trumps attacks, he may have to contribute more to her.

At least some of these funders are convinced that Haley still has a shot. Shes got donors saying, You have a credible campaign, and you never know when Trump is going to choke to death on a meatloaf, Murphy said. Whether or not Haley believes that, shes going along with it. The odds that she might become the nominee through an act of God or a brokered convention, after all, are probably better than buying a Power Ball ticket. Its a clutching-at-straws thing, but shes got the best straw in town to clutch on, Murphy said. Why the hell not? Its free and fun.

4. Haley is looking to a post-Trump future.
A few weeks ago, rumors circulated that Haley might be on Trumps shortlist for vice president. If the decision, though unlikely, went her way, that could set her up to be Trumps political heir. But Haleys recent hostility toward Trumpand his splenetic responsehave surely shut the door on that possibility. Instead, Haley is staking out her own territory.

Shes not done. Shes running for 2028, Sarah Isgur, a senior editor at The Dispatch and a former deputy campaign manager for the 2016 Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina, told me. Trump has changed her brand-thinking. Instead of gunning for some sort of role in MAGA world, Haley can portray herself as the last person standing in the war against Trumpisma position that many men before her have fought for and failed to achieve. If she can do that, she can consolidate a leadership future for herself, post-Trump, Isgur said.

Haley will be able to say I told you so if Trump loses to Bidn in Novemberor if he wins but then governs disastrously. Shell be the good conservative who tried to warn you, Murphy said. This also means that after the race is over, shell have to lie low for a while, and not join other Trump rivals turned grovelers, including Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. Shes playing the long-term game, Murphy said.

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Joe Biden twice confuses Gaza with Ukraine as he approves US military aid airdrops

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Joe Biden twice confuses Gaza with Ukraine as he approves US military aid airdrops

President Joe Biden twice confused Gaza with Ukraine as he announced the US would provide desperately needed aid to the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.

Mr Biden, 81, confirmed on Friday that humanitarian assistance would be airdropped into Gaza – a day after the Hamas-run health ministry said 30,000 Palestinians have died since the war began last October.

“In the coming days, we’re going to join with our friends in Jordan and others who are providing airdrops of additional food and supplies”, the president said, adding the US will “seek to open up other avenues in, including possibly a marine corridor”.

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But Mr Biden twice mistakenly referred to airdrops to help Ukraine – leaving White House officials to clarify that he was in fact talking about Gaza.

Pic: Reuters
Image:
Pic: Reuters

Mr Biden revealed the development while hosting Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Washington – as he warned “children’s lives are on the line”.

“Aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough,” he said.

More on Gaza

“Now, it’s nowhere nearly enough. Innocent lives are on the line and children’s lives are on the line.

“We won’t stand by until we get more aid in there. We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.”

Mr Biden also said he hoped there would be a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas by the time of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month which is expected to start on 10 March.

He told reporters: “We’re still working real hard at it. We’re not there yet.”

He said all sides have to agree on timing but that “they’re still far apart”.

President Biden hosted Italian premier, Giorgia Meloni at the White House on Friday Pic: Reuters
Image:
President Biden hosted Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the White House on Friday. Pic: Reuters

Mr Biden’s promise of airdrops came a day after dozens of Palestinians perished during a deadly aid truck incident in Gaza City.

At least 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others were injured, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, on Thursday.

Airdrops are a last resort for when things are really desperate

Airdrops are a last resort. They are inefficient, inaccurate, expensive and dangerous.

They are only chosen as an option when things are really desperate.

The White House spokesman admitted as much just after the president’s announcement: “There are no missions more complicated than humanitarian assistance airdrops,” John Kirby said.

In this case, the decision to resort to them is all the more remarkable because America is dropping aid to counter failures in a war being prosecuted with US weapons by one of its closest allies.

Israel controls the aid that gets into Gaza. To have to airdrop it is to admit a fundamental failure and a humanitarian disaster.

It’s inefficient because only small amounts of aid can be dropped at a time – palates of food parachuted from the back of planes.

It is inaccurate because you have no control over precisely where the aid will land.

It is dangerous because the aid drops could hit people as they land and because they could cause stampedes on the ground.

Usually aid is distributed with the coordination of aid officials on the ground.

It’s also dangerous for the aircrews flying over a war zone.

It is expensive because it requires significant military coordination.

In short – it is a stark illustration of just how much of a (man-made) disaster Gaza now is.

Witnesses said nearby Israeli troops opened fire as huge crowds raced to pull goods off an aid convoy.

Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a stampede linked to the chaos – and that its troops fired at some people in the crowd who they believed moved towards them in a threatening way.

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IDF: Aid convoy incident in Gaza is a tragedy

On Friday evening, the UK joined demands for an investigation into the killings, described by Foreign Secretary David Cameron as “horrific”.

Lord Cameron said there must be “an urgent investigation and accountability” – amid growing international calls for a probe into the episode.

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Analysis of the deadly Gaza aid truck incident

“This must not happen again,” he said.

While he did not directly blame Israel, he linked the deaths to the lack of aid being allowed into Gaza.

“We can’t separate what happened yesterday from the inadequate aid supplies,” Lord Cameron said.

“In February, only half the number of trucks crossed into Gaza that did in January. This is simply unacceptable.

“Israel has an obligation to ensure that significantly more humanitarian aid reaches the people of Gaza.”

Read more:
Exclusive: The company making millions from Gaza misery
Hamas tells Sky News Biden’s ceasefire hopes are ‘wishful thinking’
Biden faces voter backlash over Israel policy

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French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his “strongest condemnation” for the shootings and called for “truth, justice and respect for international law” in a post on X.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the incident on the social media platform, writing: “The desperate civilians in Gaza need urgent help, including those in the north where the UN has not been able to deliver aid in more than a week.”

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Sports

Sources: Giants, 3B Chapman agree on $54M deal

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Sources: Giants, 3B Chapman agree on M deal

Matt Chapman, regarded as one of the best defensive infielders in baseball, agreed to a three-year, $54 million contract with the San Francisco Giants, sources confirmed to ESPN on Saturday.

The deal also includes opt-outs after the first and second year of the agreement.

Chapman’s deal is very similar in structure to that of Cody Bellinger, who re-signed with the Chicago Cubs last week, with his highest salaries at the outset of the contract. Like Bellinger, Chapman also has the built-in opportunity to test the market again if he has a better season offensively than in 2023.

Chapman, who turns 31 in April, won his fourth Gold Glove Award in 2023 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Since the start of the 2018 season, he ranks first among all players at that position in defensive runs saved and he is third in outs above average.

As Chapman moved into free agency this fall, however, some talent evaluators privately expressed doubts about their interest in him because of his offensive performance — 71 homers over the past three seasons, but with a .226 batting average and 537 strikeouts in 446 games.

His 2023 season was a microcosm of the good and bad he’s generated at the plate: After starting very well and batting .384 in April, he flatlined, generating a .205/.298/.361 slash line the rest of the way. Evaluators noted his trouble against fastballs.

The Giants have had difficulty signing high-end free agents in recent winters, with their overtures to Aaron Judge and others turned down. The addition of Chapman should complement what is expected to be a good pitching staff — including sinkerballer Logan Webb.

The New York Post first reported Chapman’s deal with the Giants.

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Vogelbach’s slow HR trot draws ire of Yanks’ Cole

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Vogelbach's slow HR trot draws ire of Yanks' Cole

TAMPA — Having Gerrit Cole walk off the mound mid at-bat in the first inning would usually mean disaster for the New York Yankees. But spring training is different.

Cole, making his spring debut Friday night, gave up a two-run home run and a triple before manager Aaron Boone pulled him during a 1-2 count six batters into the Yankees’ 8-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

But the Yankees’ ace reappeared in the second inning — that’s allowed in spring training — to smoothly complete his workday, retiring the side in order and facing two more hitters in the third inning. In all, he allowed two earned runs on four hits across the two-plus innings. He threw 39 pitches.

“I’m executing the way I want to execute there,” Cole said.

The only issue Cole had Friday had nothing to do with his own performance. It was with Blue Jays designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach, who punctuated his two-run blast off Cole in the first inning with a bat flip and trot that bothered the right-hander.

“What’s the day?” Cole said. “Are we still in February? March 1st? Yeah, he enjoyed that homer.”

Asked if he would remember Vogelbach’s enjoyment, Cole replied: “I don’t forget a lot of things.”

Cole, 33, was one of the few bright spots during the Yankees’ disappointing 2023 season. The right-hander went 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA in 209 innings across 33 starts. The performance earned him his first Cy Young Award.

This year, he tops a starting rotation with a few question marks. Friday was a solid start even if he didn’t finish the first inning.

“It was good to be out there again,” Cole said, “and yeah, the stuff was pretty good.”

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