If there’s a hallowed book of political truisms found in a library somewhere, it should no doubt contain the following pearl of wisdom: One debate performance does not a candidate make.
Try sharing this piece of knowledge with the small contingent (compared with the rest of Republican voters) of Nikki Haley backers today. I don’t know anyone who truly supports Haley, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but here’s guessing the former Trump U.N. Ambassador’s patrons counter every “but what about her ----” challenge with a “but” of their own – “BUT, didn’t you see the debate last month? She dominated the stage! She looked strong! She looked in control! She looked like the adult in the room! She looked compassionate! She looked authoritative, especially when she put that snot-nosed upstart punk Vivek Ramaswamy in his place over foreign policy! She’s a conservative and a moderate voice at the same time! BUT, BUT…. BUT!”
Dang, that’s a lot of “but’s”, isn’t it? But where Nikki Haley is concerned, you’ve got to have a healthy basketful of counter arguments, because she’s got a lot of contradictions, the first being, “Why is she even in the race? What’s she done since leaving her U.N. post nearly five years ago? Does Haley seriously think she can win the vice president nod from Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis? What’s her platform (Her slogan is “Strong and Proud”)? How would she continue the good work that Trump did during his four years, plus add conservatism on top of it? Would she be a better president than would be DeSantis?”
And there’s perhaps the biggest mystery of all: “If Nikki Haley were in charge, would America return to the line of thinking that plunged us into the disastrous forever wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan? What’s there to distinguish her from Bush neoconservatism?”
Whatever the reasoning, Haley appears to have gained a bit in the GOP primary polls, and most political observers think it’s due to residual favor leftover from her two hours on the debate stage in Milwaukee three weeks ago. Somewhat shockingly (to this observer at least), Nikki is viewed by a growing slice of GOPers as the most electable Republican candidate vis-à-vis broken-down old dolt president senile Joe Biden.
Is darling Nikki (Prince fans will get it) the one to lead the not-Trump charge?
“A Trump-Biden rematch would pit two unpopular senior citizens against each other, each with an established track record as president. Other Republicans could more easily make the election a referendum on Biden or more effectively capitalize on concerns about the oldest president’s age, shared even by many Democrats.
“The most recent CNN poll testing Biden against Republican candidates shows all the candidates being competitive, but several do better than Trump. Haley does best of all, beating Biden 49% to 43%...
“Perhaps once you beat the drum about Trump’s electability and suitability too loudly or too often, you inevitably become one of those single-digit Never Trump candidates. Such forthrightness carries the risk of failure. It’s also all but certain that if Trump is nominated and does lose next November, he will blame Republicans who said he couldn’t win. Either way, there is an unavoidable downside to telling Republican voters they got the Trump question wrong twice and are about to do so a third time.”
Yes, a large part of Haley’s campaign pitch revolves around her telling audiences that Trump (and senile Joe by extension) isn’t electable because he’s too old and in trouble too much. Or something like that. So many of Haley’s appeals go right over my head – and I’m thinking others’ as well – because most everyone realizes she’s only running because she figured (correctly) that she would be the only woman in the GOP race, and the party needs at least one not-male, right?
Who else would it be, Marjorie Taylor Greene? Lisa Murkowski? Or how about one of the new House bomb-throwers like Anna Paulina Luna? Luna would instantly become the most attractive presidential candidate ever. Will saying so get me in trouble with the “Me too!” crowd?
(Note: Antle’s piece is long and more or less covers the dilemma faced by all the not-Trump candidates and is definitely worth the time to read the whole thing.)
Sure, Haley was once seen as a young and promising somewhat conservative Republican when she was elected governor of South Carolina at the wee age of 38 back in 2010. Much of her shine for standing up to authority rubbed off when she caved to the woke left during the Confederate Battle Flag on the Statehouse Grounds controversy early in her second term as governor, flip-flopping on her previous position.
Nikki also put herself on the wrong side of an important current issue by opposing requiring transgenders to use restrooms according to their birth sex. It begs the question: does she have any basic beliefs or does she just sway with the political winds?
Haley also exposed herself as politically tone deaf when she endorsed Senator Marco Rubio in the 2016 Republican presidential primary race (not Trump or conservative favorite Ted Cruz, though she did back Cruz when Rubio dropped out). Despite Nikki’s rather open antipathy towards him, Donald Trump, as president, offered her the U.N. job. Now she’s saying he’s too old to be president again. Go figure.
Haley’s support for Trump went back-and-forth. One moment she’d defend him for his policy victories and in the next breath she’d say he’d let us all down. In this, Nikki tries having it both ways, appealing to the legions of loyal Trump supporters while also clinging to hope she could end up the lone not-Trump candidate standing. It’s evident by now that no Republican presidential nominee can win without Trump’s backers in their corner in 2024. Can she walk the tightrope?
It also seems clear Haley drew praise from some GOP horserace watchers for her debate answers on Ukraine and abortion. On the current overseas venture in the former Soviet republic that was invaded by arch-fiend Vladimir Putin last year, Haley drew attention to herself by joining with Chris Christie, Mike Pence and fellow South Carolinian Tim Scott (establishment candidates, all) by advocating for continuing to aid the Ukrainian resistance with military supplies.
In doing so, she firmly rejected the realistic notion that Ukraine is merely a regional conflict that doesn’t directly impact the United States. Haley’s very public (and loud?) spat with Ramaswamy must’ve drawn enthusiastic responses from the old Bush party establishment, but realists (mostly) took Vivek’s side. Haley didn’t look good insulting Ramaswamy personally (“You have no foreign policy experience and it shows.”). To me, she looked stern and angry, not statesman-like.
Haley also separated herself from the other Republicans when talking about the abortion issue, taking a more practical (“We don’t have the senate votes for a national ban”) approach that actually made some sense. Nikki essentially argued that Republicans should push Democrats to name at what point in pregnancy that they would support a ban, which would place the onus on liberals to stop defending abortion up until the moment of birth and put themselves on the record.
The rationale isn’t what a dedicated pro-lifer wants, but would save some babies’ lives. And it would be more politically palatable, too, with incremental improvements introduced when the time was right. Abortion is a long-term fight, and, for a moment, Haley sounded very reasonable.
I just don’t see Haley’s moment in the sun (if her slight poll boost equates to such a thing) lasting very long. I predict that, because of her few special moments in the first debate that Republican voters will give her a more thorough size-up in the next forum (in a couple weeks), and Nikki’s lack of substance will then reveal itself. Yes, she promises to cut spending and has a decent record on fiscal matters, but her aggressive foreign policy longings aren’t what the grassroots wants in the Donald Trump era.
Ron DeSantis realizes it. Certainly, Vivek Ramaswamy does, too. But few conservatives long to go back to the Bush/Romney Republican party.
And the more Trump faces oppression from the Biden deep state, the worse it will be for candidates like Haley who aren’t truly opposed to a strong governmental role in daily life.
Further, most reasonable people are tired of the conventional January 6 narrative as told through the eyes of the establishment media, Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, the stupid highly partisan “January 6 commission” (which merely served as a propaganda tool for embittered losers such as Liz Cheney), and which has been disproved and discredited through subsequent revelations (such as the involvement of the FBI, etc. in the “protest gone bad”). There’s also the gross overreach of the biased Democrat prosecutors pursuing maximum punishment against not only the small band of violent participants, but innocent people who didn’t do anything wrong other than walk through the capitol building and take selfies.
Anyone remember the “QAnon Shaman”, Jacob Chansley? Thanks to Tucker Carlson’s exposé earlier this year, the peaceful bearded horn wearer was released early from the federal gulag.
Donald Trump is far from bulletproof on January 6 – or any other topic. But the one slinging the arrows had better be credible and consistent. Nikki Haley is neither.
Nikki Haley obviously did her homework in the lead-up to the first Republican debate, and her preparation resulted in somewhat higher poll numbers. But one debate does not a candidate make. Haley needs to do more than stand firm on the neoconservative foreign policy line to show conservative voters she’s legitimately challenging Donald Trump. It’s an uphill battle, for sure.
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