The Wash
Nikki Haley with supporters in New Hampshire

‘It goes to character’

Lifelong Republican voters enthused by Haley’s retail politics.

By Anne Moskowitz

MANCHESTER, N.H. – “Right now we have a choice, and our choice is Nikki,” said longtime Republican voters Mary Ann Hanusa and Charlie Johnson while remarking on their decision to travel from Iowa to New Hampshire to support Nikki Haley as she campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination. 

Following Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s suspension of his campaign on January 22, Haley stands as the sole Republican candidate battling former president Donald Trump for the party’s nomination. Although the Trump campaign opted for large rallies in arenas, Haley has tended to travel to smaller meet-and-greets at restaurants and pubs, among other places.

The married couple, Hanusa, 60, and Johnson, 69, from Iowa, attended several of these retail events hosted by the Haley campaign this past month. She said that her ability to connect person-to-person differentiates her. The two have become campaign volunteers, rallying support for the GOP candidate from the first-in-the-nation caucus in Iowa to New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.

The pair have been members of the Republican party their entire adult lives. Hanusa is a former Iowa House of Representatives member, and Johnson is currently running for county supervisor in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Having seen the party dynamic shift in recent years, Hanusa and Johnson believe it is “time to move on to someone new….who has energy and perspective” and that Haley is “the complete package” they are looking for.

Debra Quimby meets former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley for the first time at a local restaurant in Manchester, N.H. (Maddie Gerber/The Wash)

Hanusa and Johnson found themselves drawn to Haley partly because of her positions on foreign policy, education, abortion, and education – all of which aligned with their own. Beyond her policy positions, though, the couple expressed being further driven to support the former South Carolina governor after witnessing the warm and personable demeanor that she exudes.

“It is not just policies that go into holding presidential leadership,” Hanusa said. “You need to have a moral character that reflects well on our nation.” 

Hanusa and Johnson – who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 – noted that although they agree with many of Trump’s policies, they have been turned off by the chaotic nature of Trump’s presidency and his actions since leaving office in 2021.

“If Trump would have acted more presidential, he’d still be president,” Johnson said. Having been involved in politics for many years, Hanusa and Johnson emphasized that politicians are “not all like Nikki Haley,” who they describe as someone with the potential to unify a divided America with her gregariousness and authenticity of spirit. 

“Our country is on fire right now,” Hanusa said, explaining their belief that electing Nikki Haley would contain the spreading political inferno. 

For Haley, a former governor elected twice by South Carolinians, the ultimate litmus test may be her performance in the Palmetto State’s presidential primary on Feb. 24. It remains unclear if Haley’s high-dollar contributors will continue to donate adequate funds if there is an underwhelming result in the contest in her home state. But, for now, Hanusa and Johnson are on board.


The Wash Staff

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