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Donald Trump comfortably won last night’s New Hampshire primary against Nikki Haley, his second big win after a historic victory in last week’s Iowa caucus. Trump carried New Hampshire in 2016 by a double-digit margin in what was then a six-person race. Last night’s victory, while significant, was not quite as wide as it was expected to be, which could be a warning sign for Trump’s standing with moderates. An NBC exit poll found that 36% of Trump voters last night don’t consider themselves part of the “MAGA” movement.

Since Haley is not dropping out of the race, for today’s letter, I thought it would be helpful to dig into what both she and Trump have said about the three I’s: infrastructure, immigration, and innovation.

In Donald Trump, we have a wealth of policy pronouncements from which to draw, particularly on immigration. Securing the southern border (the Trump wall) was a cornerstone of his previous bids for the White House, and he has not backed away from the issue. A second Trump term would most likely bring increased restrictions on H1-B visas for highly skilled workers through what he calls a “merit-based immigration system that protects American labor and promotes American values.”

Haley has also taken a hardline stance on illegal immigration but has expressed support for bringing skilled workers to the U.S. In a September 2023 interview on CNN, she stated, “What about if we brought people in based on merit…where we looked and said ‘What companies need workers? What jobs do we need to fill?’ If you looked at them based on that, all of a sudden, you’re building our economy. You’re helping America.” With workforce development playing a critical role in ACEC advocacy, it will be important to monitor how each campaign’s platform develops during the campaign.

We’ve talked a lot about emerging technologies, and so have these candidates. As president, Trump established the American AI Initiative via Executive Order in February 2019, stating that “Continued American leadership in Artificial Intelligence is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States.” Although Haley has not explicitly gone on record about AI, she did come briefly under fire for another controversial technology position.  Citing national security concerns she suggested – then walked back – that social media companies end anonymous posting by verifying users. “I don’t mind anonymous American people having free speech,” she said. “What I don’t like is anonymous Russians and Chinese and Iranians having free speech.” Such a position could have implications for the federal contractor TikTok ban should Haley be elected.

Last, but not least, infrastructure. In a September speech in which she unveiled her economic plan, Haley took aim at what she called “reckless federal spending” and proposed an end to the federal gas and diesel tax. “We don’t need a federal gas tax to fund our roads. We’ll keep building our roads with the trillions Washington still has.”

After the November 2021 passage of IIJA, Trump criticized the 13 Republicans who brought the legislation over the top. “Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory on the ‘Non-Infrastructure’ bill,” he said in a post-vote statement. “All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves.”

Despite Trump’s IIJA comments, he was bullish early on in his 2016 bid, putting infrastructure front and center. Whether he returns to that playbook to create even more contrast with Haley isn’t clear.  If he does, it will create an opportunity for ACEC to raise the issue of what comes after the IIJA.

In politics, as in life, what one says matters far less than what one does. That said, we can make inferences based on public record and public statements and get a pretty clear picture of what a candidate might do in office. Our job is to help cut through the clutter of rhetoric to find that most elusive commodity of any campaign: the truth.

Have a great week –

Linda Bauer Darr

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January 24, 2024



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