Last night, Republicans decided they wanted a rematch of 2020, with Donald Trump securing right at half the vote in Iowa. Whether that’s a smart play or not will be argued on the internet, but decided at the ballot box come November. My only warning remains the same: The current calm before the storm is a mirage.
That wasn’t what struck me about the results in Iowa, though. Rather, it was Nikki Haley finishing in third place with a sizable portion of the vote. Later in the evening, the former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador proclaimed the campaign had now been narrowed to a “two-person” race, an odd proclamation given her standing.
At that point, I was reminded of a post I made back in October.
Nikki Haley is the absolute hubris of Never Trump.— Bonchie (@bonchieredstate) October 17, 2023
They were offered an alternative who wasn't in their tribe but enjoyed extremely high favorables among Republicans.
They couldn't just be happy. Instead, they had to go for the Bush-era gold, and now they'll get nothing.
Hubris, defined as excessive self-confidence and pride, perfectly describes the donors and political groups that lined up behind Haley. For months, poll after poll came out showing Haley as unpopular within the Republican Party compared to the other top candidates.
In late December Gallup found Haley had a 44 percent favorable rating among Republicans while Morning Consult had her at just 42 percent. DeSantis was above 60 percent in both of those polls. What did that mean? It meant that DeSantis, however remote his chances following the indictments of Trump, was the only competitor with enough broad appeal to even have a theoretical shot at actually competing head-to-head.
The Never Trump, neoconservative contingent within the GOP didn’t care, though. They were convinced that they could not only dethrone Trump but that they could do so without even having to compromise. DeSantis wasn’t in their tribe. He didn’t fold on the big issues. He didn’t whisper sweet nothings in their ears when they waved cash in his face. He stuck to his guns, he fought the culture wars, he called Ukraine a territorial dispute, he said a man can’t become a woman, and he told Disney to pound sand.
He was too impure for Never Trump because he didn’t represent anything Never Trump stood for. Instead of being calculating and getting behind the best Trump alternative that Republicans actually like, they attacked him, called him a statist, and threw all their money behind the most unpopular major candidate in the race. In Haley, they saw their chance to go for the Bush-era gold. She was their vehicle to shift the party back to a pre-Trump footing while not having to reckon with their own shortcomings.
That, my friends, was hubris, and for it, they will now get Trump good and hard. To that, I say, “Well deserved.”