Nikki Haley may not know what the Civil War was about, but is she now the frontrunner to be Donald Trump’s 2024 Republican vice president choice?
Some prominent conservatives are figuring so, announcing their views publicly to the astonished looks and gasps of politics watchers everywhere.
In an opinion piece titled “DeSantis’s Campaign Is Irrelevant if the GOP Voters Want Trump”, direct-and-to-the-point conservative bomb-thrower Kurt Schlichter wrote at Townhall:
“The GOP primaries and caucuses have not actually started, but Donald Trump appears from the polling to be way ahead. I prefer Ron DeSantis, but if you are betting, you would probably put your money on Donald Trump being nominated again. So be it. That’s what primaries are for—to find out what the base wants and to do that. And if that’s what the base wants, that’s what it should get. I’m going to support the nominee whether it is Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump or… well, it’s going to be one of those two. And I am still going to continue to support the nominee even if it is Donald Trump and he picks Nikki Haley as his vice presidential running mate, which I totally see him doing. [emphasis added] I am a Republican, and my party winning is what matters first...
"[T]here are the people who accuse Ron DeSantis of being some sort of Soros/Ryan/Rove plant, but this is so stupid that you almost have to be willfully dumb or disingenuous to buy it. Hell, Trump’s likely to select as VP the lady Paul Ryan backs. [emphasis added] Again, someone who believes this nonsense was never going to vote for him anyway.”
As you would ascertain from the article’s title, the preponderance of Schlichter’s commentary revolves around Ron DeSantis, a topic I covered yesterday in my post-holidays look at viability and electability in the lead-up to Iowa and New Hampshire, which will vote in two and three weeks respectively.
But it was Schlichter’s off-handed comments on Nikki Haley likely being runaway leader Trump’s running mate that caught my attention. Does Schlichter really believe this tidbit of gossip or was he merely trying to drive home a point on who he intends to back against the Democrats?
It is true that Nikki Haley has seemingly gone out of her way to not be too openly critical of Trump, which drew her the (supposed) wrath of Chris Christie during last month’s debate and out on the campaign trail, where the irrelevant, rotund “Why is he still here?” former New Jersey governor and 2024 GOP presidential candidate has tried just about anything – other than praise Trump for building a new, more inclusive Republican party – to try and establish himself as a contender.
Christie’s gambit didn’t work, and couldn’t succeed, since most Republicans, including some establishmentarians like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, still like Trump even if most of them felt a change was desperately needed to return the GOP back to the pre-Trump days of non-stop capitulation to the Democrats on the conservative cultural agenda and rubberstamp sellouts to the defense industry lobby in the name of “national security”.
Going overboard on Trump, therefore, is a certain loser. To the extent that a middle-ground was possible, the not-Trump candidates, except for Vivek Ramaswamy (who has treated Trump very deferentially) sought a means to go at the frontrunner without appearing bitter or mean or vindictive.
Therefore, Haley’s critiques of Trump have basically centered on the septuagenarian’s age as an electability disqualifier (which conveniently allowed her to bring in senile Joe Biden to the same conversation, since the broken-down old goat corrupt-o-crat current president is even older than Trump and is visibly deteriorating before the world), and, a reasoned appeal to fiscal-minded conservatives that Trump spent too much. Which he did do, primarily because things went haywire during the opening phases of the COVID farce.
Haley’s jabs at Trump’s spending are easy pickings, since the president is the most visible member of any government, but Congress must appropriate every dollar that the executive compels his departments to distribute. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I recall that the “relief” votes were mostly bipartisan in both chambers, and if there’s anything that can bring Republicans and Democrats together these days, it’s blowing wads of cash towards some establishment media-hyped “emergency” cause in an election year. This way the pols can return to their states and districts and brag about how they “worked across the aisle” to “solve the crisis”, while they really just burned money to save their… well, you know (rhymes with molasses) while stacking debt on top of debt.
Trump’s advocacy for the “relief” packages was therefore not unreasonable under the circumstances even if a good many of us raised a caution flag to keep the amounts down and be judicious about the beneficiaries.
But Trump has never been a huge advocate for fiscal tightening. A cursory look at his business empire reveals that he’s a big proponent of debt financing, and he’s carried that philosophy over to the biggest spender/financier of all, the federal government in a “spend now, worry about coming up with the money later” emphasis.
How else could Trump swear to keep all hands off of the government’s big entitlement programs, the largest drivers of spending and debt today?
That being said, one can’t help but feel a sense of false concern and opportunism contained in Nikki’s gripes about Trump’s spending. Really, only Gov. Ron DeSantis has walked the walk on spending, making his critiques of Trump’s excess more real. Haley, by contrast, has called for stepping up humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine to defeat Vladimir Putin at basically any cost, which is code for, “We will financially back any war we can possibly tie ourselves to.”
Nikki’s tack on the age issue also falls in line with standard middle-aged candidate speak, which gave her something to talk about on the campaign circuit and tapped into the groundswell of Americans who thought, “Well, Biden is too dang old, but, if you look at it, Trump is almost the same age and is therefore too far removed from the energy necessities of the office.”
As soon as the age thing wasn’t gaining her much separation in the Republican party primary race, Haley largely dropped it, instead preferring to concentrate on the issues that got her noticed in the GOP debates, namely swamp-defending foreign policy (which she claimed expertise because she spent a couple years as Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations), her slowly improving poll numbers, abortion and “female leadership” baloney.
Haley’s poll results from the past three or so months being the only thing that’s really gotten her noticed by the ever hungry for a story (especially if it involves possibly weakening Trump) establishment media. Because it looks as though Nikki has laid undisputed claim to being 2024’s Republican establishment candidate, money started flowing in from the biggest anti-Trump GOP sources, giving Haley a sizable cash boost when she needed it most and also lending the appearance that she could compete for the big title.
The fact that she has basically no chance to win the necessary delegates to be nominated at this summer’s Republican convention is irrelevant to the Nikki-backers. But her “popularity” with non-Trump fans vis-à-vis senile Joe Biden and the Democrats has some, like Kurt Schlichter, theorizing that she’s being vetted by Trump as a running mate.
I don’t think this is so for a few reasons. First, Trump, by labeling Haley “Birdbrain”, clearly considers her out of the running for his vice president number two. “Birdbrain” being one of the more insulting of Trump’s nicknames, heavily implying that Nikki doesn’t have the intellectual heft to fill the position of chief Trump administration 2.0 cheerleader.
After all, “Birdbrain” is something an objective observer might label Kamala Harris – and no Republican would entertain allusions to senile Joe Biden’s cackling, affirmative action choice for vice president. Further, Trump, after choosing Haley (if he did), would be greeted at each campaign stop with quizzical looks and open questions of, “Why Her? Why Birdbrain? Is she the best you could come up with, or is it purely a play to win ‘moderate’ votes?”
Second, Trump most likely doesn’t feel a need to offer a “unity” vice president choice to the elites because he figures he’s already got a winning coalition. Trump has defeated the Mitt Romneys and Paul Ryans of the party – twice now – so, does he really require their support to win another term? The establishment all-but sabotaged his first four years, so why would he want to toss them a bone?
I can see it now: Trump: “They work for me now. Let them come and beg for inclusion in the new Republican administration.”
Lastly, Trump, above all else, wants a person with unflinching loyalty in his top support position. He brought in someone from outside his circle in 2016 – Mike Pence – and it didn’t end well. Why would Trump agree to settle for Nikki Haley, of all people, a politician who’s never demonstrated any kind of fealty to Trump or the MAGA brand except when it benefited her personally?
Trump wouldn’t take the chance that Haley would follow his directions. Sorry, Kurt (Schlichter), I don’t see Trump picking Nikki for his running mate.
I still believe Trump’s short list, to the extent that he’s finalized one, includes South Dakota governor Kristi Noem and possibly old political rival turned friend Ben Carson. Noem has proven loyalty, is a respected conservative, would “show” well as Trump’s vice president and, most importantly, is someone who Trump could envision as being qualified to inherit the MAGA movement. Ditto for Carson, though it’s iffy-er that the former HUD Secretary would add as much to the ticket as Noem could.
No one can definitively read Donald Trump’s mind, and everyone knows he loves surprises, but the suggestion that he’s considering Nikki Haley for vice president is too strange to be true. Haley exhibits none of the qualities that Trump values in a close adviser, so why would he take a flier on her and grant her a spot on his 2024 ticket? The debate will continue as the months pass.
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