Nikki Haley lately has been making the case that former President Donald J. Trump has transformed the Republican Party into his personal “playpen.” In media appearances and at rallies as she crisscrosses the country leading up to Super Tuesday this week, she has argued that Mr. Trump has installed loyalists in key party positions and pushed for changes in primary rules to serve himself.

Ms. Haley has suggested that the Republican National Committee is at risk of becoming his “legal slush fund” for the four criminal cases he is facing. She has sounded the alarm over losses Republicans have incurred up and down the ballot, with candidates championed by Mr. Trump. And she has even hedged her responses on whether she would endorse the Republican nominee if he wins.

“We are in a ship with a hole in it — that hole is Donald Trump,” she declared Wednesday to loud cheers at a performing arts theater near Salt Lake City. This new approach is a sharp turn from the more calibrated tone she employed for most of the Republican nominating contest.

When she jumped into the race last year, becoming the first major challenger to Mr. Trump, Ms. Haley, who served as his United Nations ambassador, took only vague swipes at her former boss, promising to “move beyond the stale ideas and faded names of the past.” She tended to mention him only when asked, mixing criticism with praise, a tack that made her a reluctant messenger for the small but not insignificant portion of Republicans seeking an alternative to the former president.

Now, after a streak of losses to Mr. Trump (and a small victory in Washington, D.C.’s primary), she is grappling with his endurance among her party’s base. The discomfort with her position — neither all in, nor entirely against — is not a new one for Ms. Haley or other Republicans, but it reflects the existential question they face.

It’s also one that she struggled with even before she joined his administration. According to one of her memoirs, Ms. Haley canceled an appearance on NBC’s “Today Show” the morning after the 2016 presidential election because she was unprepared to discuss the topic of the day: what Mr. Trump’s unexpected victory could mean for the future of the Republican Party.


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