The subject of endorsements bubbled to the surface this week as a prominent fiscally conservative leaning organization founded and financed by the haughty Koch organization
opted to leave the sidelines of neutrality and endorse one of the remaining not-Trump candidates in the 2024 Republican presidential primary race.
That candidate was Nikki Haley, the lone female in the race and the Republican who’s been primarily focused on promoting “generational change” in Washington above everything else. Haley’s pitch has also contained a heavy emphasis on reviving America’s influential role abroad, primarily through military muscle.
The move by Americans for Prosperity surprised many, shocked others, and didn’t make a lot of sense to some. Why’d they do it? Why now? In an article titled “Koch allies' Haley endorsement raises questions about GOP foreign policy debate”, longtime conservative politics observer W. James Antle III reported at the Washington Examiner on Wednesday:
“The former South Carolina governor has also sung from the fiscally conservative songbook that has powered Koch-affiliated groups’ political activism since the tea party era a decade ago, including her talk of entitlement reform. Haley also takes a quieter tone on culture war issues than Trump or Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and has largely eschewed the economic populism sweeping the GOP over the past seven years.
“But billionaire Charles Koch has also been highly involved in promoting foreign-policy restraint. The early tea party was as much a rebuke of former President George W. Bush, with his bank bailouts at home and nation-building overseas, as Democratic former President Barack Obama.
“Trump was a departure from Bush in one key respect. He called the Iraq War a mistake while winning the nomination in 2016. He is running on not starting any new wars during his previous term and is warning about the risks of ‘World War III’ in the next four years. In a second term, hawks like former national security adviser John Bolton would likely be absent from his administration.”
I’d say it’s more than just likely Bolton-type war advocates would be absent from a Trump second term. It’s a certainty. If Trump does manage to win the 2024 GOP nomination and then dispatch senile Joe Biden (or a similarly situated Democrat replacement) in the general election, he’ll definitely do it his way in go ‘round number two. Why do stuff just for appearances?
Speaking of appearances, the only reason the AFP people chose Haley over DeSantis – and ultimately, Trump – is because of the former Trump U.N. Ambassador’s recent “surge” in polling vitality. It had absolutely zero to do with anything Haley purportedly believes, her platform (if indeed she has one apart from standard Republican-speak about low taxes, reduced government spending and a robust emphasis on national security and a strong military) or her perceived abilities to alter the political dynamic in the nation’s capital.
No, it’s all about casting a line out to the middle of the political lake and hoping a fish is swimming nearby who finds the lure enticing. Nothing more. With Nikki gaining a few points on DeSantis in Iowa and New Hampshire and her native South Carolina recently, it looks to the desperate Never Trump crowd like her horse is making a move on the backstretch of the 2024 GOP horserace to put herself in a prime position to charge down the stretch starting next month (Iowa’s caucuses are scheduled for January 15).
But it also begs the question: Why didn’t the Koch people choose Haley months ago? Why’d they wait until nearly December to make an endorsement? If DeSantis were the one enjoying a bump in apparent viability instead of the former U.N. Ambassador, would he have gotten the nod instead of Nikki? How about Chris Christie? Or Asa Hutchinson… or Doug Bergum? Is Haley just a fill-in-the-blank “winner” of the “she looks like she could be the one to challenge Trump” ever-evolving contest?
Bolstered by the Koch money, Haley’s chances of pulling off some sort of 11th hour improvement just jumped a tad. But is it a difference maker? I doubt it. Whoever made the decision to go all-in on Haley neglected to glance at the writing on the wall, much less to read it. As I’ve argued too many times to count, Trump’s is a grassroots driven movement based on real policy gravitas and messaging.
Yes, Make America Great Again is candidate driven in the sense that Trump’s most ardent backers like him and his one-of-a-kind in-your-face political style. Trump’s voters were sick to death of politicians with slick backed hair giving lip service to the things they really cared about – like the invasion of illegal aliens (this was last decade, mind you) bringing wholesale changes to their communities and workplaces, with rampant crime, welfare dependency, stagnant wages and greed fostered corporate leadership that wanted one thing, and one thing only – cheap labor.
All the while these newcomers brought more than social ills with them – they had knapsacks full of political power, votes for politicians who would perpetuate the conditions that the voting public hated most. How many neighborhood schools have been completely taken over by students speaking foreign languages? I recently drove by the elementary school I attended in the late 70’s. I was shocked by the line of buses shuttling the student population to and from the place – clearly most of them are from somewhere else (and not just other neighborhoods).
Hablo Ingles, youngster?
As I’ve reported before, the homeless population (of Southern California) is more visible than ever. When I was there, one encampment caught fire, damaging a freeway overpass. Fires are evidently a regular thing, too! Homeless transients have begun pitching tents alongside freeways as well. Is this insane?
Needless to say, it didn’t used to be this way. Folks from around the country are noticing similar differences from the time when quality of life actually mattered to the political class, and that’s the reason why someone like Donald Trump came to power. And that’s the rationale 2023’s voters are employing to mount the effort to bring him back, no matter how “toxic” he might be to the DC swamp environment and politicos like Nikki Haley, who is all flash and no substance.
AFP choosing Haley in the out-of-the-blue manner they did kind of looked to me like a panicked NFL team on Draft Day. Contemplate this familiar scenario: the team brains realize they have a high draft choice and the clock is ticking, so they bow to the pre-draft hype from the “experts” while keeping an eye on fan reaction to select a name “star” who could, if things work out the way they’re supposed to do, turn the franchise around and set it on a path to winning.
Candidate Trump would be the highest on two-thirds of everyone else’s draft board, but the team owner personally doesn’t like him for some reason. Some might label it a grudge. So, regardless of the opinions of most team leaders – and the players themselves – the choice is made to pick candidate Nikki Haley. A collective groan is heard from just about everyone other than Haley’s family (a.k.a., the Never Trump faction who likes her neoconservative policies) as the announcement is made, and the mood in the room instantly turns dark.
Gov. Ron DeSantis also would’ve made sense to the anyone-but-Trump believers. DeSantis’s record and performance, at least to this observer, would’ve been a much better fit for AFP’s long-established mission. He’s conservative through and through, carries an aura of non-intervention, and seems destined for a solid future in the movement, regardless of what happens in 2024.
The Tea Party would approve of Ron DeSantis, too. Results speak volumes. Is there anyone who’s done more for the conservative cause than the Florida governor at the state level?
By contrast, what does Haley offer? If DeSantis doesn’t make progress in the Republican presidential race, he’ll return to Florida and pick up where he left off there, hopefully with the prospect of getting some additional policy assistance from Washington in the near future. Nikki Haley will probably beg Trump for the vice president’s slot, or a prominent cabinet role. Nikki for Secretary of State? Or Defense?
Trump wouldn’t go for it. At least I don’t think he would. And AFP will probably regret choosing Nikki for their go-to candidate this year, too.
Endorsements don’t usually carry much weight with the voters. It’s hard to conceive of folks on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina lending much gravity to AFP’s action this week. It goes without restating that Trump is about as well-known to the Hawkeye State’s voters as they come, and Haley’s been making the rounds for months attempting to get folks to notice her for something other than her gender.
AFP plans to dump millions into Haley ads in the early states, but will those do? How will they help? Ads reinforce impressions but rarely change them. Here’s thinking they’ll do nothing to those already in Trump’s camp, and the only reward that matters, at this point, is outright victory.
There is no consolation prize for second place, no matter how much the establishment media wishes there’s real value in a runner-up finish to Trump in the early going. Losing by 25 points instead of 30 points isn’t going to mean much for Nikki Haley, is it? Perhaps she’ll receive another week or two on the campaign trail for the trouble. Is this worth it?
Debate will rage back-and-forth as to whether Americans for Prosperity was wise to throw-in late in the GOP race for gaining but still basically hopeless Nikki Haley. The risk of incurring Donald Trump’s ire apparently wasn’t great enough to motivate AFP to stay out of it – but wouldn’t their resources be much better served in the general election battle against the real enemy to conservatives?
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