CNN  — 

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley plans to vote for Donald Trump, she said Wednesday in her first public remarks since exiting the Republican presidential primary more than two months ago.

Haley said Trump “has not been perfect” on policies important to her, including foreign policy, immigration and the economy, but President Joe Biden “has been a catastrophe.”

“So I will be voting for Trump,” said Haley, who served as US ambassador to the United Nations under the former president.

Haley’s remarks about the 2024 race came during a Q&A session following a speech at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, where she now serves as the Walter P. Stern chair.

Haley said she has “no regrets” about her GOP primary bid: “We left it all on the field.”

She also thanked the primary voters who have continued to back her even after her departure from the race — a potential warning sign for Trump. And she reiterated the call she’d made when exiting the race in March for the former president to reach out to those voters.

“Trump would be smart to reach out to the millions of people who voted for me and continue to support me, and not assume that they’re just going to be with him. And I genuinely hope he does that,” Haley said.

Earlier this year, Haley and Trump were engaged in what had become a bitter primary feud. Haley, at one point, questioned the former president’s mental fitness. She told CNN in January that Trump and Biden were “equally bad.”

Her critiques of Trump during the primary grew even sharper after the former president mocked the absence of her deployed husband and called for all of her donors to be “permanently barred from the MAGA camp.”

“In that moment, he showed that with that kind of disrespect for the military, he’s not qualified to be the president of the United States, because I don’t trust him to protect them,” Haley said in February.

Then, days before dropping out, she said she no longer believed she was bound by the Republican National Committee pledge to support the party’s eventual presidential nominee.

‘Dangerous worldview’

As she ventured back onto the political stage Wednesday, after two months out of public view, Haley didn’t mention Trump in her Hudson Institute speech — only addressing the former president when asked about him afterward.

“A dangerous worldview has risen on both sides of the aisle,” she said in her remarks. “Once again, it threatens our prosperity and security. We need to take this seriously.”

She offered full support for Israel’s war with Hamas and strongly criticized Biden for placing conditions on military aid to the country.

“Biden thinks he’s stopping a war,” Haley said. “In fact, he’s dragging out a war, emboldening terrorists and making other wars more likely.”

She was also critical of her fellow Republicans, urging the party to support military aid for Ukraine and Israel. But she did not criticize GOP members by name and praised House Speaker Mike Johnson for the recent passage of a military aid package.

“Sending weapons to Ukraine and Israel isn’t foreign aid,” she said. “It’s an investment in a world in which authoritarian dictators cannot run roughshod over free countries.”

Since leaving the race in March, the former South Carolina governor has spent time reconnecting with her family, aides say, including her husband, Michael, who returned from a yearlong overseas deployment.

Yet even in her absence, she’s been winning votes in one Republican primary after another. Her lingering support has exposed a potential challenge Trump faces to unifty the party in suburban areas of swing states – such as outside Philadelphia, where Haley received nearly 25% of the vote in both Chester and Montgomery counties.

While Trump has not extended an olive branch to Haley or her supporters, the Biden campaign has closely studied the Republican primary results, aides say, even in deep-red states such as Indiana, where Haley received about 22% of the vote earlier this month. The Biden campaign has sought to reach Haley’s supporters through television and digital ads in hopes of reminding them of Trump’s insults aimed at their candidate.

“The campaign has the opportunity to target and engage high-information Republican voters like Nikki Haley supporters or other voters who voted for Donald Trump in ’20, but voted for Democratic candidates in ‘22 across battleground states,” a top Biden adviser told CNN.

The Biden campaign argued Wednesday that Haley’s backing of Trump doesn’t change the choice before voters. “Nothing has changed for the millions of Republican voters who continue to cast their ballots against Donald Trump in the primaries and care deeply about the future of our democracy, standing strong with our allies against foreign adversaries, and working across the aisle to get things done for the American people – while also rejecting the chaos, division and violence that Donald Trump embodies,” campaign communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement.

“Only one candidate shares those values, and only one campaign is working hard every day to earn their support – and that’s President Biden’s.”

It’s an open question how many of those voters backing Haley in primary contests are lodging a temporary protest against Trump or actually open to supporting Biden.

Republican Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, who endorsed Haley in the primary before switching his support to Trump, said he believes she should be on the GOP ticket.

“For Nikki Haley, in Indiana, to pull over 20% and not be on the ballot is amazing,” Norman told CNN. “That’s why she would make a great VP candidate. And I made that pitch to President Trump and also to Nikki Haley.”

Norman said that while Haley has not expressed interest in joining Trump’s ticket, he believes she would be interested.

“Politics is an interesting game. People can forget the past and look forward to the future,” Norman said.

For his part, Trump has said Haley “is not under consideration” but said he wished her well.

As other former Republican contenders have fallen in line behind Trump, Haley has intentionally kept her distance – not hostile, but also not hungry for his adulation.

The two have not spoken since her concession speech in March.

One longtime Haley friend told CNN that Trump “knows how to reach her if he wants to make amends and try to start winning over her supporters.”

Haley’s next steps are uncertain. She has neither ruled in – nor ruled out – a potential 2028 presidential bid. In her speech Wednesday, she offered few clues, even as she struck an optimistic note to the future.

“We are blessed to live in America,” Haley said. “And as every generation of Americans proves, we always rally to defend that blessing.”

This story and headline have been updated.

CNN’s Kit Maher contributed to this report.