By Kate Sullivan and Alayna Treene, CNN
Mason City, Iowa (CNN) — Former President Donald Trump on Friday deployed his sharpest criticism of GOP rival Nikki Haley to date as Haley sees a rise in polling ahead of the Iowa and New Hampshire nominating contests later this month.
Trump painted Haley as an establishment figure and argued that Haley was “in the pocket of” establishment donors, adding that donors supporting President Joe Biden have given to the former South Carolina governor’s campaign.
Some influential GOP donors have coalesced behind Haley. And Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and a prominent Democrat donor, said in December that he had donated to a super PAC supporting Haley because the GOP primary fight represents one of just two opportunities to stop Trump from winning the White House again.
The attacks from Trump mark a shift in strategy for his campaign, which has stopped spending money on ads attacking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Trump campaign and Trump-aligned super PAC are now spending a combined $4.5 million targeting Haley in new television ads.
Trump seized on Haley’s failure to mention slavery when she was asked at a New Hampshire town hall what caused the Civil War. Trump said he thought “slavery is sort of the obvious answer.”
“I don’t know that it’s going to have an impact, but I’d say slavery is sort of the obvious answer,” he told a crowd of supporters in Mason City, Iowa.
After receiving backlash, Haley later clarified that “of course the Civil War was about slavery.”
Trump also criticized Haley’s recent comments that “Iowa starts” the primary season but New Hampshire voters “correct” Iowa’s results.
“Haley recently said Iowa voters will need to be corrected by other states … look, I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem nice, right,” Trump said.
CNN’s Fredreka Schouten contributed reporting.
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