It’s been my contention for the past couple months that polls showing former U.N. Ambassador (under Trump) Nikki Haley’s so-called “surge” in early states was an illusion.
Haley’s gain is (mostly) fake because she’s an illusory candidate – all surface flare and precious little issue substance. For those outside of her home state of South Carolina, can you name one thing, off the top of your head, that Nikki is known for? Anyone? Anyone? Capitulating on the Confederate flag issue, perhaps? Being the first female Indian-American governor?... Betraying the conservative cause? Endorsing Marco Rubio in the 2016 Republican race? Anything else?
Whereas Donald Trump was deemed a “message carrier” in the 2016 presidential race, Haley’s primary campaign pitch appears to be “I’m a woman who’s acceptable to wishy-washy moderates and is therefore electable.” Or, “I won’t say it outright, but if you choose me as your 2024 Republican candidate, you’ll get the days of George W. Bush and John McCain all over again.”
Haley’s slogan – “Strong and Proud” – doesn’t connote anything meaningful. Strong, in what way? Proud? Proud of what?
At any rate, Haley’s airy presidential run, according to members of the hopeful establishment media, has gained momentum, so much so that some are forecasting possible second place finishes for her in a couple of the early states. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but Nikki’s crew seems exultant over her meager improvement in some polls. She’s indeed impressed one group of Republicans, supposedly – the nebulous conglomeration of Never Trump politics watchers.
Is it temporary, or does Nikki’s jump have staying power? In a story titled “Nikki Haley is consolidating the ‘Never Trump’ vote”, Sally Goldenberg, Natalie Allison and Meridith McGraw reported recently at Politico:
“…Haley is running far behind the former president. And in a party he continues to dominate, consolidating the anti-Trump vote is likely to get Haley only so far. In a still-crowded primary, Haley is in some ways the latest manifestation of the challenge confronting all of them: Run hard against Trump, and turn off those who stick by his side. Support him and lose those desperate for a different choice next year...
“Haley is trying to widen [her] path by appealing to both the MAGA base and the rest of the Republican Party, as well as to its far-right conservatives and more moderate voters. After months of delivering unspecific answers on abortion policy that aimed to show nuance and compassion at the November debate, she voiced support for a state-level, six-week ban during a candidate forum hosted by a conservative evangelical group in Des Moines last week.
“Now on the trail, Haley has sought to hold space for everyone’s feelings about Trump, repeatedly saying that he was ‘the right president at the right time,’ but criticizing aspects of his foreign policy and personality. Even if she is drawing the support of ‘Never Trump’ Republicans, she isn’t campaigning like one, as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie does.”
The Politico authors are certainly entitled to their opinions, but this observer thinks Haley’s drawing support from Never Trumpers because she most definitely is campaigning like one. Haley’s not as overt in her jabs at Trump as Christie is, but the result is the same. Besides, Christie has absolutely zero to lose, while Nikki still thinks she’s got a shot to beat the frontrunner.
Polls hint that she’s gaining ground – on Ron DeSantis -- in a couple of the early states, but the celebrations now being exhibited by the Haley people are misguided. Seriously speaking, if Haley gained a point or two in New Hampshire or Iowa, where did the poll bump come from? Are these Trump backers who’ve decided to leave the former president’s nest, or are they, more likely, from the very limited pool of “undecided but could still change their minds” fence-sitters, the type of American who doesn’t settle on a candidate until they reach the voting booth?
Mike Pence and Tim Scott have recently left the Republican race. Could it be that their small gathering of supporters merely travelled over to Haley’s camp rather than seeing Nikki’s bump as a larger trend away from the race leader?
The long and short of it is, Donald Trump’s voting bloc is as solid as oak. Nevertheless, the Never Trump longshot consultant-driven strategy seems to be based on a few premises.
First, the Never Trumpers are still hoping against hope to “steal” one of the early primaries in order to instill doubt in the voting public’s minds about Trump’s viability. Such starry-eyed dreamers seek comfort from their interpretations of the lessons from history, theorizing that Republican primary voters’ apparent trance-like devotion to Trump and the fantasy of a second MAGA presidency for the career real estate developer and reality TV star will suddenly be jolted to shattered awareness by an early loss in a nominating state.
Like sure, if Trump was edged out in Iowa and/or New Hampshire or South Carolina by a percentage point or two that his eight years of campaigning, establishment media brawling, two impeachment avoidances and volumes of speeches, tweets and deeds would cause his most ardent supporters to sit down, wipe their worried, sweaty brows and force them to adopt the winner of the new not-Trump movement.
They’d throw away all those Trump signs, Make America Great Again bumper stickers and deep-six the campaign buttons, then sign-up at Nikki Haley’s website for regular propaganda updates on their new candidate!
It's a fallacy not thoroughly explored by many in the media who just hope that something cosmic or otherwise intervenes to save them from having to live with Trump’s personality for the indefinite future – or simply just resign and concede their paychecks. Many a Never Trump “conservative” commentator did this in 2016, surmising that Trump would definitely lose the election to Hillary Clinton, and, even if the impossible happened and he won, that his utter lack of friends in the DC swamp would doom him to failure.
The deep state did end up prevailing, of course, but it didn’t doom Trump, who is the contemporary version of the energizer bunny who keeps going and going and going with no sign of let up. It’s gotten pretty bad out there, though, with German-owned publication Business Insider publishing scenarios of what would happen to the Republican party if Trump were to die before the 2024 election.
Yes, you can’t make this stuff up. Reality is often stranger than fiction, isn’t it?
While the Never Trumpers claim that Donald Trump has no future – and by extension, the country doesn’t either if he wins again – it’s they themselves whose rope has run out of length. The George Wills, Bill Kristols and Jonah Goldbergs of the world have largely dropped off the face of the earth, not being heard from for years. Some of them launched new publications to try and generate a lasting voice, but their business model was hopelessly flawed from the outset.
One can’t start a store with no customers. A network can’t create ratings without viewers and a newspaper won’t get anywhere without readers. Who’s going to see the advertisements?
Second, the Never Trump opposition has become synonymous with the old Bush Washington establishment. Pay attention to those who are griping the loudest about Trump and his having risen from the ashes to lead the Republican field by such a huge margin, and inevitably you’ll find that there’s a connection to the most prominent swamp GOP from days of yore.
Anyone asked Mitt Romney lately if he’s going to vote for Donald Trump if/when Trump wins the party nod? How about calling Jeb Bush (or his brother), or John Kasich, John Boehner or Liz Cheney or Paul Ryan and getting their input? Here’s guessing that these “the way it used to be” voices would say something nice about Nikki Haley and her tone when compared with Trump.
Never Trumpers long to return to the times when there was “bipartisanship” where “both parties came together” to formulate policies that kept the people passive and unsuspecting. Remember “Medicare Part D” or “No Child Left Behind”? Big government Republican ideas passed by sell-outs in the DC swamp that haven’t improved anyone’s lives and cost taxpayers hundreds of billions.
Or starting unwinnable wars overseas. The self-interested warmongers did it with a smile on their faces, though! Is it a coincidence that most of the Never Trump complainers are intimately tied to the military industrial complex?
Finally, you’d be shocked at how fast the Never Trumpers’ attitude changed if Trump were to lose his senses and choose Haley as his running mate, a result she’s clearly after. Once Trump secures the nomination, Nikki will withdraw from the race and endorse him, say he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread and toss out non-subtle hints about how electable she would make the 2024 combo. The GOP establishment will speak plainly of a “unity” ticket, and even Chris Christie will make overt attempts to mend the campaign wounds.
Here's thinking Trump will approach all of his campaign rivals when the verbal shooting is done and probably offer them something in exchange for an endorsement. Nikki Haley, be it from the Never Trump side or others, does appear to have some sort of following. Trump eventually made amends with Ted Cruz in 2016, and he’ll find a way to bring everyone onboard – except for the politically suicidal sort – and the GOP will emerge from next summer’s convention with a semblance of unity.
Somewhat unlike the past couple elections, conservatives and Republicans have living proof of how destructive another term of Joe Biden would be. This plays to Trump’s advantage in the general election, but also serves as a trump card to use against the increasingly isolated Never Trump holdouts. The either/or choice is stark – will common sense and teamwork prevail?
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