Nikki Haley
Nikki HaleyReuters / USA Today Network

Former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, on Tuesday took a swipe at Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as she defended her proposal for mental competency tests.

Speaking to an audience member during a campaign event in Iowa and quoted by The Hill, Haley said Sanders, one critic of her proposal, was “exactly the reason we need it.”

“Bernie Sanders lost his mind because I asked for that. He is exactly the reason we need it,” she said.

The comments came after Sanders, 81, told Stephen Colbert on Monday that Haley’s plan for mandatory tests of the mental acuity of politicians over the age of 75 was “nothing more than old-fashioned ageism” and “not acceptable.”

The crowd laughed at Haley’s response on Tuesday, and she then widened her critique, unprompted, to include two other veteran Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Rep. Maxine Waters.

“Whoopi Goldberg lost her mind over it — and you know what she was doing? She was glorifying Dianne Feinstein and Maxine Waters. They are exactly the reason we need it,” Haley said.

Haley formally announced her presidential run last week, becoming the first candidate to challenge former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.

In her remarks on Tuesday, she was for the most part complimentary about Trump, but — in response to that same final question — made plain her differences with the former president.

The question, from an audience member who identified himself as “Bob,” was whether she would consider Trump as her running mate in 2024.

A clearly amused Haley replied, “How well do you think it would go over if I called President Trump [and ] said ‘Do you wanna be my VP?'”

“President Trump is my friend. I called him before I did this. We had a good conversation,” Haley said, before adding, “He was the right president at the right time. He broke the things that needed to be broken and he worked to fix them. The reason I’m running is, we gotta move forward. We gotta move forward. We can’t keep dealing with these issues in the past and I think we need a young generation of leaders.”

Other candidates are expected to join the race for the Republican nomination, including former Vice President Mike Pence, who strongly hinted last week that he will soon announce his candidacy.

Pence told reporters in Iowa that Haley "may have more company soon" in the 2024 race.

Also expected to announce his candidacy is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. A recently released poll found that Republican and Republican-leaning voters favor DeSantis as their presidential candidate.