Nikki Haley has become the anti-Trump candidate in early Republican primary states, one of her top fundraisers has said, as he urged Chris Christie to drop out of the race and give her a clean run at the nomination.
Eric Levine told The Telegraph that Mr Christie “has no prayer and really should get out” of the primary contest because “his voters all go to her”.
Ms Haley, a former US ambassador to the UN, has gained momentum in recent weeks and now polls second, behind Donald Trump, in two of the first three states of next year’s primary race.
While Ron DeSantis remains ahead in Iowa, which will caucus on January 15, Ms Haley is in second place in New Hampshire and South Carolina, her home state.
Mr Trump has remained consistently ahead of his rivals by more than 20 points in the first three states, but Mr Levine said Ms Haley was the only candidate gaining support and should receive the backing of all anti-Trump voters.
Unlike Mr DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy, who is in fourth place nationally, Ms Haley has not aligned herself with Mr Trump’s “Make America Great Again” wing of the GOP and is seen as the establishment candidate.
Her campaign has received a polling and donations boost after the exit of Mike Pence, the former vice president, and Tim Scott, a South Carolina senator, from the contest in recent weeks.
Mr Levine, who previously backed Mr Scott, said he had raised $70,000 (£56,000) for Ms Haley’s presidential campaign in the last three days, and expects to reach $100,000 before a fundraiser in New York on December 4.
He said much of the support came from Republican donors who had not yet supported a candidate but were trying to keep Mr Trump off the ballot next year.
The campaign has attracted Spencer Zwick, who managed donations for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, and the hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer.
“People are watching in horror as they look at some of these numbers,” he said.
“The only polls that matter are Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, and she’s the only one who’s ascendant in each of those three states.
“Ron DeSantis is flatlining, Chris Christie has no prayer and really should get out because his voters all go to her, and Donald Trump’s numbers are soft and dipping in those states.
“So I think you’re going to see some additional momentum and I think a lot of people in the Republican Party are rightly very concerned that they do not believe that Donald Trump can win.”
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Mr DeSantis, who is in second place nationally, has focused his energy on Iowa and moved three of his top campaign staff to the state this week.
But Ms Haley’s campaign has spread its resources more evenly across the three early states, with a $10m advertising campaign set to begin in both Iowa and New Hampshire in early December.
Her campaign is managed by Betsy Ankney, who previously ran the election campaign of Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson, while Olivia Perez-Cubas, a former Marco Rubio aide, has been appointed director of communications.
Although Ms Haley overtook Mr DeSantis’s polling numbers in New Hampshire and South Caroline in the first week of September, her campaign has since picked up momentum in televised primary debates.
At the third debate in Miami last week, Ms Haley drew the most headlines by telling Mr Ramaswamy, who had criticised her daughter: “You’re just scum.”
She has also attracted attention for her support of American assistance of Ukraine, which has become a divisive issue among Republican voters.
With Mr Scott and Mr Pence out of the race, Ms Haley and Mr Christie are the only two remaining candidates who have strongly criticised Mr Trump.
This week, Secret Service agents sparked rumours Mr Trump was considering attending the fourth debate in Alabama on December 6, after they were spotted conducting a recce of the venue.
Mr Trump is the only one of the GOP primary contenders who receives Secret Service protection, and a Republican source told The Telegraph: “There would be no reason for them to be there unless Trump was at least considering it.”
A Trump campaign spokesman said he would not attend the debate.
On Friday evening, Ms Haley, Mr DeSantis and Mr Ramaswamy attended the Family Leader Thanksgiving Family Forum – an important event in the socially-conservative state ahead of the January caucus.
Ms Haley repeated her opposition to abortion, but said the issue should be left up to individual states to decide, rather than restricted at a federal level.
Mr Ramaswamy and Mr DeSantis both revealed for the first time that their wives have had a miscarriage, as they discussed state abortion limits.
“Our faith teaches us that our child joined his creator, and one day, we will too,” Mr Ramaswamy said.