In a recent interview with Politico, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley had this to say about Donald Trump’s future in the Republican party: “I don’t think he’s going to be in the picture. I don’t think he can. He’s fallen so far.” She had more harsh words for the former president, and seemingly holds him personally responsible for the chaos that overtook Capitol Hill on January 6th.
This interview reinforced remarks she made to the RNC in a closed-door speech on January 7th, stating Trump’s “actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.”
Because Nikki Haley has a propensity to trash Donald Trump, Newsweek has given her their stamp of approval and proclaimed her to be the GOP’s 2024 frontrunner:
“For those Republicans who believe the party should simply move on from the Trumps—just as it did from the Bushes after George W.’s disastrous eight years in the White House—there stands Nikki Haley. She’s an obvious choice for a party that needs to expand beyond non-college-educated white men.”
The GOP consultant class seems to agree.
“I think Nikki Haley is the front-runner and it’s going to be very hard to stop her,” Castellanos told OZY co-founder and CEO Carlos Watson. “I think she’s underestimated.”
Not so fast. What do actual voters have to say? A poll of registered voters conducted this week by Morning Consult and Politico show Haley’s former boss atop the 2024 Republican field, with Haley polling below Mike Pence and Donald Trump, Jr. Their numbers were as follows in response to the question “If the 2024 Republican primary were being held today, for whom would you vote?”:
Donald Trump – 53%
Mike Pence 12%
Marco Rubio – 2%
Mitt Romney – 4%
Nikki Haley – 6%
Ted Cruz – 4%
Josh Hawley – 1%
Tom Cotton – 1%
Tim Scott – 1%
Kristi Noem – 1%
Larry Hogan – 1%
Rick Scott – 0%
Donald Trump Jr. – 6%
Mike Pompeo – 2%
Someone Else – 3%
Would Not Vote – 5%
Nikki Haley is serious about running for president. She started a non-profit, Stand for America, as a vehicle through which she could address issues, grow an email list and donor base and, presumably, convert into a campaign apparatus at the appropriate time. Her recently announced Stand for America PAC hopes to be a big player in the 2022 midterms.
But her on-again, off-again relationship with Donald Trump is problematic. Blowback from her Politico interview, not to mention the above-mentioned poll, shows that her inability to navigate the post-Trump waters hurts her with grassroots conservatives. Her messaging is garbled and the issues she’s strong on – China, for example – get overshadowed. She could easily be outflanked by the likes of Ron DeSantis and Kristi Noem – or Trump himself – in the runup to 2024.
It will take skill and political savvy to get back on Trump’s good side, something that does not seem to be going well for Haley at the moment. From today’s Politico Playbook PM:
NIKKI HALEY reached out to former President DONALD TRUMP on Wednesday to request a sit-down at Mar-a-Lago, but a source familiar tells Playbook that he turned her down. The two haven’t spoken since the insurrection on Jan. 6, when Haley blasted Trump for inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol.
Haley made her feelings about Donald Trump clear when she she told Politico, “I don’t feel like I know who he is anymore.” Many conservatives feel the same way about Nikki Haley.
Teri Christoph is editor of Fierce, a weekly newsletter about conservative women and politics.
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