Anyone but Trump

But there are no ‘Never Haleys’

March 07, 2024


Although former US president Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican presidential primaries, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley pulled off her second primary win on Super Tuesday, which appears to be enough to keep her plucky campaign alive.

Haley was Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations, serving for about two years, and has mostly defended his administration. Even her criticism of Trump’s actions around the January 6, 2021, Capitol Hill Riot was relatively restrained. While as she admitted that Trump played a role in instigating the riot, she also said that he should not have been impeached. She also defended Trump’s delusional claim that he won the 2020 presidential election as a sincerely held belief. Still, for even that ounce of pushback and Haley’s refusal to drop out and swear fealty to him, Trump’s rallies have regularly featured misogynistic rants about her.

But Trump’s narcissism and misogyny aside, there is a legitimate question of why Haley is still running, given that she has almost no mathematical chance to win the nomination. While some have argued that this is because she is doing it to keep herself in the media spotlight to bolster her chances of being Trump’s pick for vice president, Haley does have a legitimate, albeit unusual, route to the top of the ticket.

While most Trump supporters are standing firmly with him, a sizeable number say that they would rethink their support if he is convicted in one of his criminal cases. At the same time, many Republicans have said that they are ‘Never Trumpers’, meaning that they will never vote for him if he is the candidate. Add to this the fact that many independent voters virulently dislike Trump, and it is almost certain that he will not be able to win the popular vote in November, which makes it even harder to win the general election.

But there are no ‘Never Haleys’, meaning that if Trump cannot run — due to a criminal conviction or his health — she could win the support of all Republican voters while also attracting independents who dislike Joe Biden, the incumbent President, and voters who want to put the first woman in the White House. This is precisely why her messaging also focuses less on Trump and more on how she is the only Republican who can beat Biden, who is unchallenged in the Democratic primaries.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2024.

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