Some of the biggest names on Wall Street are putting their money behind Nikki Haley for the 2024 presidential election, believing the former South Carolina governor offers the best shot at fending off former president Donald Trump, who remains the GOP frontrunner.
“There are many on Wall Street who are not excited about the possible return of Donald Trump to the White House,” said Michael Beckel, research director at Issue One, a nonprofit that seeks to reduce the role of money in politics. “Those folks are looking to consolidate around an alternative to Trump before it’s too late.”
Haley, who served in Trump’s cabinet as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., has gained support among many Wall Street titans who are lukewarm on the current leading candidates and drawn to her promise to control inflation, reduce the national debt, and reform entitlement spending. The broad outlines of her plan—cutting government benefits and taxes while adopting a hands-off approach to business—appeal to the finance sector, and align more neatly with the traditional conservative platform before its Trumpian turn.
It’s a big gamble for a party whose base has become decidedly populist, but Haley is climbing in the polls and, with big business’ help, she might just pull off an upset.
“Money alone doesn’t guarantee electoral success, but when a candidate has more money, they have more options about how to get their message out and have to make fewer tough decisions about how to deploy their resources,” Beckel told Fortune. “Wall Street money could add wind to the sails of Nikki Haley’s campaign at a critical time in the race.”
A parade of prominent business figures has come out swinging for Haley in recent days. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon on Wednesday urged even liberal Democrats to back the former South Carolina governor. “Get a choice on the Republican side that might be better than Trump,” Dimon said onstage at a conference hosted by the New York Times’ DealBook franchise. (Still, Dimon, who has famously clashed with Trump, was coy when host Andrew Ross Sorkin asked him if he was a never-Trumper. “I would never say that…because he might be the president and I have to deal with him,” Dimon replied.)
Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel, struck a similar tone at a Bloomberg conference in Miami earlier this month, saying he was “actively contemplating” financially supporting Haley while criticizing the former president. Griffin has previously praised Haley’s foreign policy experience, arguing it’s what “we need right now” amid rising geopolitical tensions globally in a Bloomberg interview in early November.
Billionaire Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone is also scheduled to meet with Haley in New York as he weighs supporting her campaign, according to recent reports. Langone, who supported Trump in the 2020 and 2016 presidential elections, on Monday called the former South Carolina governor “the only person I see who can give Trump a run for his money.”
The outpouring of support coincides with a major win for the Haley campaign. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP), the primary political advocacy group of the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, on Tuesday announced it would back Haley’s campaign. It’s a continuation of the Kochs’ 2016 decision to not support Trump in the election, when they instead focused on Senate races.
The AFP argued Haley has a “bold and robust strategy” to fight inflation, reform the entitlement system, reduce government spending, and simplify the tax code. “While we don’t agree with anyone on every issue, Nikki Haley, by far, offers the best opportunity to improve the lives of all Americans,” it said in a statement.
Nikki Haley’s campaign did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment.
The current candidates aren’t cutting it—Biden should ‘step aside’
On Wall Street, it seems few are excited about the prospect of another Biden-Trump presidential race in 2024, the likeliest situation according to today’s polling.
“I pray that we do not have another Trump-Biden election because that will produce a lot of problems,” Ray Dalio, the founder of mega-hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, said at Fortune’s Global Forum in Abu Dhabi Wednesday. He called the 2024 election the most important of our lifetimes, adding that “what we need is a very strong middle.”
The billionaire founder of Pershing Square Capital, Bill Ackman, this week called for Biden to “step aside” and allow “alternative competition” in the presidential race. Biden, now 81, is “past his prime in a meaningful way” and not at his “intellectual best,” according to Ackman.
“I think Biden has done a lot of good things. But I think his legacy will not be a good one if he is the nominee,” Ackman said in a clip from The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations published Wednesday.
“I’m much more open to Republican candidates than I am to reelecting President Biden,” said Ackman, who has mostly supported Democratic campaigns in the past. The billionaire has yet to decide on who he is backing in the presidential election, but said he has been “supportive” of Haley like many of his peers.
Haley’s rising status and billionaire backers
Wall Street’s backing of Haley has been building for years. Her nonprofit policy advocacy group, Stand For America, has received donations from some of the most powerful people on Wall Street, according to tax documents Politico unearthed in 2022. Donors to the nonprofit include Paul Singer, founder of the hedge fund Elliott Management; Stanley Druckenmiller, the billionaire investor and former head of Duquesne Capital, and the late casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
Wall Street’s support of Haley appears to be helping the former governor in the polls. Haley’s numbers in the critical New Hampshire primary have climbed 8 percentage points since September, according to CNN/UNH polls. Trump still has a sizable lead over Haley in New Hampshire—42% to 20%—but that’s beginning to fade.
More critically, some polls show Haley outperforming Trump in a hypothetical matchup with Biden. A Marquette Law School survey found the former South Carolina governor is leading President Biden 55% to 45% among registered voters. That’s compared to a 52% to 48% lead for Trump, and 51% to 49% advantage for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Still, Kyle Kondik, an elections analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told Reuters Wednesday that Haley’s chances of becoming president remain low. “I don’t think you can look at the numbers right now and see much of a path for anyone other than Trump,” he said. To his point, Trump currently holds a more than 50-point lead over Haley in the Republican primary, according to national polling from Morningstar.