After teasing a big announcement on Feb. 15, Nikki Haley surprised everyone by declaring on Valentine’s Day that she is seeking the Republican nod for president. It should be noted that she is no longer one of former President Donald Trump’s Valentines. Former US ambassador to the UN and governor of South Carolina, Haley published a video instead of holding a splashy event and called out both President Joe Biden and Trump by making age an issue.“It’s time for a new generation of leadership,” she said. Old white men, please step aside.
Haley hit hard, reminding viewers that “Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections. That has to change.” She set her sights on the magic number, 270, and at least 81.1 million votes to prove her legitimacy. Haley is now the second officially confirmed GOP contender in the 2024 presidential election. Rumors are flying around Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have made back-room comments that hint at a quest for the brass ring. Neither is using declarative sentences, however, and that may give Haley the advantage in challenging her former ally.
Can Haley Get the Nod?
In the past several years, political operatives, pundits, and king and queen makers have been dead wrong in their collective predictions of presidential elections. Trump was scoffed in 2015, and Biden was too old, yet here we are. Haley’s power is two-fold: a woman of Indian heritage and one with earned political clout. Although still a long shot, she is a hard runner and has shown moxie and stamina when they counted most. In her announcement video, she spoke of uniting the nation without even using the Biden buzzword “unity”:
“Not black, not white, I was different. But my mom would always say your job is not to look at the differences but the similarities.”
She has hometown support. The non-profit Christian public policy organization, Palmetto Family Council, is a strong booster. The group’s president, Dave Wilson, explained: “Nikki Haley stepped from the governor’s office to the international stage at the United Nations, rounding out credentials that would prepare her for a campaign like this. It’s like a countdown at NASA, T-minus two weeks and counting.” And if you can count on polling numbers, Nikki Haley is slowly and steadily becoming a more recognizable name. A recently released Reuters/Ipsos survey “found that 4% of registered Republicans supported Haley. Trump received support from 43% of registered Republicans in the poll conducted from Feb. 6-13, while 31% said they supported Florida Governor Ron DeSantis,” who hasn’t entirely decided how to plan his future.
Haley made it clear she is no shrinking violet and can go toe-to-toe with any world leader, warning that recent invasions by China and interference from Russia would not be tolerated under her watch.
“China and Russia are on the march. They all think we can be bullied, kicked around. You should know this about me. I don’t put up with bullies. And when you kick back, it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels.”
At 51, Haley brings energy to the table and a political pedigree that might propel her the distance. But her most significant deficit is the relationship she once had – and still needs – with Trump.
When Mommy and Daddy Quarrel
Haley can’t seem to decide if she still loves Trump – or loves him not. In a 2022 interview, she put both Biden and Trump in the same category: “I don’t think you need to be 80 years old to be a leader in DC.” But later, she decided: “We need him in the Republican Party. I don’t want us to go back to the days before Trump.” Haley will have a severe case of political whiplash if this continues.
Trump, being Trump, has declared that if he does not win the GOP primary, he most likely will not support the candidate who does. So it is imperative that whoever else winds up on the debate stage with Trump and Haley, they all play nice: They should at least appear to be on the same team.
But between Trump’s bombastic nature and Haley’s tagline – “I’ve never lost a race. I’m not going to lose now” – is that even a possibility? It’s simply too early to tell.
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