On Wednesday, February 15, Nikki Haley announced her candidacy for president of the United States. In a post, she set the stage for her campaign by championing her heritage as a second-generation American, her record as the governor of South Carolina, and her Christian faith.
Haley’s prospects of victory are, frankly, bleak. Her popularity has had over four years to refrigerate, having taken a sabbatical from national headlines after resigning as President Trump’s United Nations Ambassador in 2018. Recent polls are less than encouraging, with Haley only drawing four percent of support from registered Republicans. She was dwarfed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and President Trump.
However, she can still shape up to be a game-changing presence in the bitter competition ahead, and stands to benefit in a variety of ways. According to a growing list of pollsters, DeSantis stands neck and neck with Trump, even leading the former president in several head-to-head polls, such as a recent YouGov study. However, much of DeSantis’ support depends on a faction of Republicans actively searching for an alternative to Trump. Be it “old guard” Republicans, or likeminded, Trumpian conservatives desiring similar platforms without the baggage of the man himself. Nonetheless, there is a substantial anti-Trump vote to be won. This support, the lion’s share of which has gone to DeSantis, can and has been divided if drawn to other options.
The more saturated the stage, the better Trump’s odds. And Nikki Haley, consistently placed as a top four choice among Republicans, could decisively shift the balance of power in the Republican Party back into his favor. Haley’s campaign, though not a winning ticket, is a powerful bargaining chip to be used against her fellow candidates. Both frontrunners’ prospects may hinge on her campaign’s longevity, or lack thereof. If Haley remains in the running, the otherwise two-way race could devolve into a competition to offer her the most sweetheart deal.
President Trump, who made clear that if he ran he would do so without Mike Pence, finds himself pressed for options of running mates. He kept poor ties with his cabinet, which had a 92 percent turnover rate among senior staff positions, according to the Brookings Institute. Trump may also have alienated himself from many “establishment” Republicans with his mudslinging against the party’s congressional leaders, such as calling to replace Mitch McConnell and branding Lindsey Graham a “RINO” earlier this month on Newsmax.
Haley, a two-time governor, finds herself a well-rounded candidate for a broad list of cabinet positions, and was herself the most popular member of President Trump’s foreign policy team, according to a Quinnipiac study. She also finds herself more qualified and popular than fellow Republicans Marjorie Taylor-Greene and Kari Lake, whom many have speculated are angling themselves to be Trump’s running mate. With the added leverage of her campaign, the spot may be easy pickings. Greene’s latest attack on Haley over Twitter is a dead giveaway to the threat the latter poses.
However, President Trump has historically proven poor at mending bridges once they are burned. Iif his recent backing of lackluster senatorial candidates Mehmet Oz and Herschel Walker are any indication, he prioritizes loyalty and ideological similarity above all else. Already, Trump seems primed to punish Haley for her candidacy. His most recent jab, claiming he only made her UN Ambassador as a “favor” to the South Carolinians she was leaving, is not at all dissimilar to the retroactive insults he’s directed at his more estranged former appointees, such as John Bolton.
DeSantis has been cagey about the type of people he’d want at his side––he has yet to even admit if he intends to run, despite widespread speculation that he does. However, if Haley were to be on his ticket, she would not be the first second-generation American to be his right hand. Jeannette Nuñez serves alongside him as Florida’s lieutenant governor.
Moreover, DeSantis, having represented Florida’s in Congress, is no stranger to federal politics. However, Haley possesses experience in key areas he lacks, namely being closely involved in the White House and international politics. That being said, her skills would compliment his own, and make her an invaluable advisor in building the rest of his cabinet.
Haley will, of course, watch which way the wind blows before picking a team. But, all numbers being equal, whose deal would she take? The answer, of course, is whomever can best set her up for a proper, winnable presidential run down the road. This gambit failed spectacularly for Pence and Bolton, with other Trump appointees disappearing from politics completely. Trump’s capacity to permanently destroy the political aspirations of his subordinates is not a characteristic yet shown of DeSantis, making his cabinet an ultimately safer environment for Haley to cultivate her prospects.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.