“Hi, I’m Nikki Haley, and I’m running for the Republican nomination for president in 2024!"
(Applause, a few whistles and a pleasant laugh or two is heard. Then, a shouted question from the back of the room which not everyone hears.)
“What? Oh, I’m running because I’m a woman!” Haley excitedly exclaimed, mightily tossing her clenched fist into the air to add emphasis to her point. “I’m also running because I’m a minority – meaning I sound like a gool ol’ white gal from South Carolina, but I’m really not one! With me, you get the best of both worlds!”
This fictional exchange theoretically could take place today in Charleston, South Carolina, seeing as former Palmetto State governor and Donald Trump’s UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, plans to announce her impulsive bid for the Oval Office in a long awaited (really?) press event. Lots of people have been anxiously anticipating Haley would stand up and say something on the record, particularly those media and Republican establishment members who are sick of former president Trump being the only official 2024 presidential contender for either side thus far.
(Note: Haley actually announced via video yesterday… presumably the press event will still take place today though.)
While the Washington swamp slobbers over Haley for a day or two and her name jets up a couple points in the far-too-early 2024 horserace polls, it’s highly doubtful there will be contagious fire among her handful of vastly outnumbered supporters. The 51-year-old Indian American is one of the first of her ethnic origin to try for the honor in the Republican Party. The only other politician with a similar ancestry was Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, who tried to match Donald Trump for a relatively short time in 2015.
In Jindal’s particular case, he didn’t make it past the “Happy Hour” debate stage, meaning his poll standing never soared high enough to place him within the top ten. Depending on the number of entrants – and their backgrounds – into this cycle’s presidential race, here’s guessing Haley will share a similar fate to Jindal’s.
As to whether Haley will reveal her gender and ethnic backgrounds as the most salient reasons why she’s running for president is an open question. Nikki hasn’t held an official office since the last day of 2018 (ending her tenure as the United States’ UN Ambassador), and, to my knowledge, has just been hanging around the fringes of the media universe chiming in an opinion on current events whenever the talkers feel a need to invite a Republican woman to contribute.
The fact that Haley is tangentially tied to Trump and could possibly say something disparaging about her former boss only adds to her appeal among the anti-Trump media set. Therefore, expect to see lots of her in the coming weeks.
Today, no doubt Haley will expose why she’s opted to chase the Republican presidential nomination when her chances of success appear so remote. In the meantime, it’s gotten harder for non-Trump and non-DeSantis GOPers to gain traction in the earliest stages of the charge. In a piece titled “Expected Trump-DeSantis showdown crowds out rivals in fledgling GOP presidential race”, Seth McLaughlin wrote at The Washington Times:
“… From [Haley’s announcement], she is scheduled to make official stops as a candidate in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire and then Iowa, home to the caucuses that traditionally kick off the nomination contests.
“Mrs. Haley’s star has burned bright in the eyes of Republicans who celebrate her rise as the first female minority governor of South Carolina and her role as Mr. Trump’s lead envoy to the United Nations. Mrs. Haley has signaled that she plans to make the case for new leadership and generational change after a series of election setbacks, including on Mr. Trump’s watch.
“‘Haley is jumping in because she has the operation and she’s ready,’ said a person who is familiar with Mrs. Haley’s thinking. ‘She will contrast her vision for a strong and proud American with Joe Biden’s weak and woke record.’”
This is all well and good. Nikki will indeed contrast her vision and record against senile president Joe Biden’s, and while the South Carolinian has decades less experience swimming with the DC swamp creatures than Biden does, she’s still a much more attractive alternative in a hypothetical matchup with the broken-down old goat who currently haunts the White House.
But Haley’s chief challenge isn’t getting people to like her better than Joe Biden. No, that task seems simple by comparison to her real mission – to contrast herself with Donald Trump, and, for now and the foreseeable future, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis. Even after the fateful events of January 6, 2021, Trump was always destined to be the biggest hurdle in any Republican challenger’s room. The addition of the incredibly well-regarded DeSantis only makes the calculus that much more difficult for a lane-less hopeful like Nikki Haley.
It's still early in the game, but already the vast majority of grassroots energy is with Trump and DeSantis. Trump is favored because of his record as president but also the notion that he was cheated out of his second term by COVID-mandated early voting and ruling class shenanigans in several states that weren’t thoroughly investigated and explored. Those feelings won’t vanish simply because of Haley’s charm, smile and claims of being more youthful and wiser than her former boss.
Of course, DeSantis is seven years younger than Haley, and if she’s bent on emphasizing the need for a new generation of leaders, she’s going to have a hard time pushing the Floridian to the side. DeSantis has drawn all the headlines for the past couple years because of his earnest and truthful battles against COVID lockdowns and mask mandates – and for his eagerness to take on the cultural left. These are fresh matters in everyone’s mind. How will Nikki compete with DeSantis?
Sure, there’s the United Nations ambassador thing, and Haley can brag about meeting and rubbing elbows with many of the world’s leaders, but what does a UN representative truly do other than wear those cool translation headphones and make lots of faces stationed behind his or her nameplate? Can anyone name a single “accomplishment” that Haley achieved during her time in New York?
At every opportunity back then, the press would sprint in Haley’s direction hoping to get her to publicly disagree with some aspect of Trump’s foreign policy, which, to her credit, I don’t recall her ever doing. But Haley’s worldview is noticeably closer to the old Bush/Marco Rubio neoconservative wing of the GOP. Anyone recall that Haley endorsed Rubio over Trump and Ted Cruz in 2016?
Haley’s move was considered a big deal at the time, since Ted Cruz had already won in Iowa and Trump prevailed in New Hampshire, meaning if someone other than the big two was to gain a foothold, South Carolina was the place. It didn’t happen. Trump won big, with Rubio coming in a distant second.
The establishment media has afforded Haley’s word more credence and credibility than it deserves. I don’t know a single conservative or Republican who prominently mentions Haley among their personal favorites. So what’s her rationale? What’s Nikki’s campaign niche?
Most noticeably, Haley now occupies the “Republican woman” lane, a position that outsider Carli Fiorina filled in 2016 (first as a presidential candidate and then briefly as Ted Cruz’s desperation pick for his vice president before the Indiana primary). It doesn’t look as though there will be many Republican women candidates this time around (though South Dakota’s Kristi Noem is still occasionally mentioned as a possibility), so Nikki could have the space all to herself.
Because she’s the lone female in the GOP primary race, her poll numbers and past status will likely qualify her for a place on the debate stage, though she’ll be one of the politicians stationed on the outer edges of the program where she may attract a few questions from the moderators but won’t be able to say a whole lot that people will remember.
Does anyone truly want to hear Nikki Haley’s plans for fixing social security, immigration or how she would approach Vladimir Putin to deter Russian belligerence? Haley’s foreign policy is probably a hodgepodge between Bush-era aggression and dumping endless sums of cash into the military to project peace through strength.
Americans will look at her as the Republican woman going against Trump. Will it be enough to gain a foothold? Is she simply running to be Trump’s or DeSantis’s VP?
Some commentators will also note that Haley looks different than what the media considers a standard Republican, meaning she’s not “white”. They’ll dwell on the lack of racial and gender “diversity” in the GOP field and remark that Nikki’s skin tone and sex sets her apart from the rest, like those qualities makes her more – or less – qualified than the others.
The news media will definitely make a big deal out of Nikki Haley entering the 2024 presidential race, if for nothing else, it gives them an excuse to talk more about Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. The future of the republic isn’t likely to be altered because of Haley’s move; she’s just another ambitious establishment pol without a reason.
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