The Significance of Nikki Haley
Or insignificance. It's a little bit of both!
The Post and Courier of Charleston reports that someone has decided to challenge Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination for president — and Nikki Haley is someone!
Cementing what has been in the works for months, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will formally announce she is running for president and will seek the Republican nomination for her party’s 2024 ticket, The Post and Courier has learned.
According to an invitation soon going out to her backers, Haley’s advertised “special announcement” will come Feb. 15 at the The Shed at the Charleston Visitor Center, a downtown gathering spot that could draw hundreds of supporters into the heart of the city’s tourism district.
The confirmation she is entering the race came Jan. 31 from a member of Haley’s inner circle.
Indeed, tweeting “it’s time for a new generation. It’s time for new leadership. And it’s time to take our country back” — as Haley did recently — is a classic of the laying-groundwork-for-an-announcement genre.
For anyone who has been paying attention in recent years, Haley’s decision might prompt a bit of amusement. Along with Marco Rubio, Haley has been a political weathervane during the Trump and post-Trump years. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake explains:
There is, of course, Haley’s remarkable flip-flop on Trump after Jan. 6, 2021. In a lengthy profile by Politico’s Tim Alberta, she essentially declared in the insurrection’s aftermath that Trump was done and that the GOP should be done with him, but then rather swiftly realigned herself with the former president. She even said at one point in 2021 that she wouldn’t run in 2024 against him — a pledge that has obviously gone by the wayside.
Many Republicans offered some version of this flip-flop in the weeks and months after Jan. 6 (see: McCarthy, Kevin). But Haley stuck out for her decision to jump so emphatically on the turn-the-page-on-Trump train, only to hop off when it became clear the party was headed in a different direction.
Blake’s assessment of Haley’s flip-flops is actually pretty gentle when you re-read what Haley told Alberta just after the January 6th riot. Here’s the critical passage:
“I think he’s going to find himself further and further isolated,” Haley said. “I think his business is suffering at this point. I think he’s lost any sort of political viability he was going to have. I think he’s lost his social media, which meant the world to him. I mean, I think he’s lost the things that really could have kept him moving.”
I reminded her that Trump has been left for dead before; that the base always rallied behind him. I also reminded her that the argument for impeachment—and conviction—is that he would be barred from holding federal office again.
“He’s not going to run for federal office again,” Haley said.
But what if he does? Or at least, what if he spends the next four years threatening to? Can the Republican Party heal with Trump in the picture?
“I don’t think he’s going to be in the picture,” she said, matter-of-factly. “I don’t think he can. He’s fallen so far.”
That take aged…. poorly, and Haley had to walk back a lot.
So does Haley have a chance? Axios’ Mike Allen and Josh Kraushaar write that, “Republican strategists believe there's room for one pragmatic candidate to consolidate support from party-first Republicans.” They then list the other possible candidates in this lane as “Pence, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.” This raises deep ontological questions about meaning of the word “pragmatic” in current political discourse.
The hard-working staff here at Drezner’s World finds the notion of Haley winning a Trumpified GOP nomination to be highly implausible. As a former governor and U.N. Ambassador, she has a decent pedigree — but the GOP has spent the last ten years or so making it clear that experience is, if anything, a political handicap. Plus she is increasingly out of step on GOP foreign policy.
What is interesting, however, is that Haley has decided to take the plunge. Sure, it could be a play for the VP spot, but political weathervanes don’t announce presidential campaigns unless they think the winds are favorable for them. Trump’s candidacy has clearly not deterred her.
As her 2021 interview with Alberta revealed, Haley has misread GOP sentiment before. But consider this one data point, among others, suggesting Republican insiders perceive Trump as a weak king.