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Haley Notches Up a Primary Win, Ditches Debate Pledge

It could also be her last.

by | Mar 4, 2024 | Articles, Opinion, Politics

Washington, DC, has granted Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley her first primary season win against former President Donald Trump. When the three-day voting session concluded Sunday evening, March 3, the final tally brought Haley a victory that had little significance. It seems voters in the nation’s capital are essentially sitting out this particular contest.

Not MAGA Country

In the 2020 presidential election, more than 335,000 folks were animated to cast their ballots. It was a landslide for then-challenger Joe Biden, with Trump earning just over 5% of the total – an increase on his 2016 figure. Notably, the only Democrat candidate to drop below an 80% share of the District’s vote in recent history was Jimmy Carter (74%) during his historic loss to Ronald Reagan. This is not MAGA country.

As the dust settled, Haley was rewarded with 1,284 votes (62.8%) and 19 delegates from the capital. The former president earned 676 (33.3%). His loss was not what one might term a big surprise.

Historic Haley

As Team Haley was keen to emphasize, this small victory was the first time a female GOP candidate had won a GOP presidential primary. Spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas noted this and went on to explain Trump’s loss rather than Haley’s success. “It’s not surprising that Republicans closest to Washington dysfunction are rejecting Donald Trump and all his chaos,” Perez-Cubas said.

Naturally, the Trump campaign also had a response to the contest. Campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said:

“While Nikki has been soundly rejected throughout the rest of America, she was just crowned Queen of the Swamp by the lobbyists and DC insiders that want to protect the failed status quo.”

Worth a Candle?

Nikki Haley campaigned in Washington, DC, but Donald Trump did not. The reasoning behind each candidate’s decision seems fairly clear: Trump was never going to win, and Haley could, at least, finally lay claim to a primary victory. The former president was not, however, impressed with her victory, writing on the Truth Social platform:

“I purposely stayed away from the D.C. Vote because it is the ‘Swamp,’ with very few delegates, and no upside. Birdbrain spent all of her time, money and effort there. Over the weekend we won Missouri, Idaho, and Michigan – BIG NUMBERS – Complete destruction of a very weak opponent. The really big numbers will come on Super Tuesday. Also, WAY UP ON CROOKED JOE!”

Nineteen delegates are not necessarily small potatoes; Trump himself has campaigned in states that offer fewer. Avoiding the contest altogether perhaps saved some embarrassment and time for what was really a foregone conclusion, but it did provide his last remaining opponent with headlines of significant worth. Unfortunately for Haley, her Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press may end up being far more significant.

Words Matter

Host Kristen Welker asked Haley whether she still felt obligated to support the eventual GOP nominee – as she promised to do in order to get a slot in the Republican debates (which Trump refused to do). That pledge was the cost of entry.

“I have always said that I have serious concerns about Donald Trump. I have even more concerns about Joe Biden,” was Haley’s first attempt to dodge. She then said, “The RNC pledge… I mean, at the time of the debate, we had to take it to where, ‘Would you support the nominee?’ And in order to get on that debate stage, you said yes. The RNC is now not the same RNC.”

After some more careful prodding, she eventually gave her concrete answer, saying, “No, I think I’ll make what decision I want to make. But that’s not something I’m thinking about.”

The central plank in Haley’s campaign against Trump is that she is a “woman of her word” and not a cause of “chaos.” She took the GOP coin in the form of debate stage access and willingly signed up for the pledge she now rejects. For her to say that she is now not beholden to her own words after reaping the benefit is a bad look from any perspective.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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