Breaking down Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign

Nikki Haley announced her presidential campaign via Twitter on February 14th, 2023. Photo by APNewsroom.

Well, it’s official now. After months of media speculation, Nikki Haley announced her presidential campaign via her Twitter account on Feb.14, which was a Valentine’s Day present that nobody wanted. The former South Carolina governor and Ambassador to the United Nations is now the first major candidate to declare a campaign against Mar-A-Lago landlord Donald Trump. Though she’s hitting the ground running with trips to New Hampshire and Iowa, let’s make something perfectly clear: Nikki Haley isn’t going to win the Republican nomination and likely won’t even come close to winning it. 

So why am I drawing this conclusion less than two weeks after she announced her candidacy? First, we need to look at Haley herself as a candidate. Since stepping down as UN Ambassador — a position she was appointed to by Trump — Haley has practiced a balancing act of criticizing yet simultaneously supporting the former president. She went from blaming Trump for the Jan. 6 insurrection and calling for the party to move on from him to then proclaiming a year later that she wouldn’t run for president if Trump ran. It seems that Haley has the dementia that Republicans routinely claim that Biden has because now she’s taking on Trump in the primary. Her flip-flopping on her opinion of Trump will likely be a key issue in the primary that could make her unpopular among both the MAGA base, who would deride her as a Republican in Name Only, or RINO, and establishment conservatives, who may view her as too Trump-allied. And while she’s trying to position herself as the future of the party, she’s going to need to face the music because her flip-flopping isn’t going to fly in a primary. For Haley to have any legitimacy as a candidate, she will need to firmly draw a line in the sand and criticize Trump in a way that most Republicans haven’t had the balls to do.  

But Haley’s constantly shifting stance on Trump isn’t the only reason she’s destined to lose in a primary. The only way she has a legitimate shot at winning the primary is if no other notable Republicans enter the race. This would be a very unlikely scenario, as numerous other Republicans have been mulling runs. No candidate has received as much speculation and support as Florida’s “male Karen” governor Ron DeSantis. If DeSantis enters the race, Haley will immediately become irrelevant in the primaries, as the showdown between Trump and DeSantis would take center stage. Even if Haley ran a campaign as great as Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, she would still be ignored by the media and voters, as they would be distracted and more interested in Trump and DeSantis hurling insults at each other. Republican voters have shown that they prefer entertaining candidates and political rivalries over reason and policy — it’s the primary reason that Trump won the nomination in 2016. Haley would have to start feuding with both of them to even have a shot of staying relevant in a primary where she isn’t the only non-Trump candidate. Additionally, a primary with both Haley and DeSantis running against Trump would likely hand the primary to the Trump, as they would both split the anti-Trump vote.  

With the odds stacked against Haley, it now becomes clear why she decided to run in the first place: to jockey for the VP position on the 2024 Republican ticket. Haley would be an appealing option for either Trump or DeSantis as a running mate, as her status as a woman of color — which she downplays by going by her middle name instead of her first name Nimarata — could help increase minority support for the Republican ticket. For DeSantis, having Haley as his running mate would bolster his argument about the new direction of the Republican Party. Meanwhile, Trump would get a loyal running mate since Haley would once again flip-flop on her previous statements about the former Apprentice star and not challenge him on anything.  

With all that in mind, I find it extremely unlikely that Nikki Haley will be sworn in as president in January 2025. While there is a slim chance that she could make the race interesting, the likelihood is very low as of now and she’ll likely be out of the race before the Iowa caucuses.  

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