Nikki Haley’s Biggest Problem

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AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Is Nikki Haley surging in the Republican presidential primary? That’s been the claim from the national press for the last several weeks as she’s pulled into a close third place nationally while showing strength in New Hampshire. 

The narrative has been that she has positioned herself as the strongest competitor to Donald Trump if the race were to become a two-way affair after Iowa. There are some problems with that suggestion, though, and a new poll has provided the evidence for those who are skeptical. 

To understand Haley’s biggest issue, you have to delineate the different lanes within the GOP primary electorate and their relative sizes. It does not matter if she’s doing a good job of consolidating the old-guard wing of the Republican Party if that wing is a small minority of the overall voter pool. What the above poll shows is that Haley’s lane is extremely narrow. Most Trump voters prefer DeSantis by a wide margin as their second choice, which says that in a two-way between Haley and the former president, the latter’s support would only harden further.

In other words, Haley is tailor-made for a New Hampshire primary where cross-party voting is allowed, but in the broader scheme of things, she’s essentially John Kasich in 2016. All she is accomplishing is ensuring no other candidate can gain ground. If the goal is to finish second and secure political opportunities in the future, Haley is doing a good job. If the goal is to beat Trump, the numbers just don’t add up, and this isn’t the first poll to show that. 

Another interesting aspect of this result is something I’ve hit on before. Namely, the idea that DeSantis has “ruined his career” by daring to run against Trump is not backed by the numbers. Not only does he remain incredibly popular within the Republican Party, but even Trump supporters still overwhelmingly prefer him to any other candidate. That includes Vivek Ramaswamy, who has run a campaign incredibly friendly to the former president while receiving consistent praise from Trump’s team of influencers. 

What that says is exactly what I asserted before the primary even began. DeSantis choosing to go ahead and run in 2024 was a win-win for him, just as it has been for past primary candidates. He has successfully built a strong base of support while endearing himself to a majority of the party. That will help him if he chooses to run again in 2028.

In short, the too-online trashing of DeSantis by Trump’s campaign (specifically figures like Steve Cheung and Jason Miller) has been mostly hot air. Very few GOP voters have been buying into their pronouncements, and it’s a reminder that assertions repeated ad nauseam by social media bot farms are not real life. 

Returning to Haley, the data we have says she has a hard ceiling that will leave her nowhere near securing the nomination. Fair or not, she is perceived as a 2004-esque candidate with little connection to the modern GOP. If Chris Christie drops out, that just might be enough to win New Hampshire, but it’s unlikely to translate past that point. 

3 COMMENTS

  1. The biggest problem for Nikki and Vivek is that neither are actually natural born citizens as the constitution requires. Vattel defined NBC as someone “born in a country of parents who are its citizens.” Want to change it, then amend the Constitution, but that would be foolish given how Vivek is already working his foreign policy ideas to favor India.

  2. Haley will get the RINO vote, nothing else ! Should Trump drop out, Ramaswamy would take most of his support. The media is pushing anyone but Trump. They worked hard to push up DeSantis and failed , now their pick is Haley and the will fail again.

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