While Nikki Haley’s decision to become the first Republican to challenge Donald Trump in 2024 was considered a bold move, it didn’t get the reception she sought. The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board said there was “no clear rationale” for her presidential bid. Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and an ex-Cabinet official under Trump, didn’t mention her former boss in her announcement but said the country needs “generational change.” Straight Arrow News contributor David Pakman sees two reasons that could help explain why she jumped into the race so soon.
If Nikki Haley is running a visibility campaign to be Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate in 2024, maybe this is an okay strategy. We know that Marjorie Taylor Greene desperately wants to be Trump’s running mate in 2024. We know that Kari Lake would love to be Donald Trump’s running mate in 2024. Neither of them seems poised to try to get on Trump’s radar to be his running mate by running for president themselves. They don’t seem interested in that. And in fact, I don’t think they have anything to stand on. At least Nikki Haley was a former ambassador and former governor. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Kari Lake, I don’t even think they could justify running for president. So if you’re trying to get on Trump’s radar, maybe entering the race, not overtly criticizing him, not insulting him, and eventually bowing out respectfully, is a good way to get on Donald Trump’s radar so that he will choose you as his running mate. That’s one possibility.
There is one other possibility for what Nikki Haley may be doing. Nikki Haley may be thinking to herself, ‘Listen, if it’s me against Trump all the way to the end, of course Trump’s going to defeat me.’ He might lose to DeSantis but she knows she’s not going to be the one who wins. But Nikki Haley might be thinking, ‘If Donald Trump is going to end up indicted, if it’s DeSantis and Trump going back and forth insulting each other, which might happen if DeSantis announces, a lot of the MAGA people – if Trump is indicted and drops out – aren’t going to go to DeSantis because DeSantis has been insulting Trump, if that’s the way it goes down…’
Nikki Haley might be thinking, ‘What I’ll do is I won’t insult Trump. I will stay respectful. I will draw no distinctions between myself and Trump on policy. So that if and when Trump is indicted and has to drop out, or if Trump has a health problem and has to drop out, the MAGA people might say, ‘Well, you know, Nikki is kind of the same thing as Trump. She was nice to Trump; she was respectful to Trump. I’m going to go and vote for Nikki because Trump had to drop out.”
Is that sensible? Does that really make any sense? I don’t know. But I’m thinking out loud about why this is the strategy Nikki Haley appears to be adopting.