Nikki Haley’s presidential bid is an unpleasant mix of MAGA and RINO

Urging Americans to embrace “a new generation of leadership,” former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced her candidacy for president in a campaign ad released online Tuesday. He is the first Republican to formally challenge former President Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination.

Haley, 51, is more than a quarter older than Trump and President Joe Biden, so it makes sense to emphasize her relative youth in a campaign that may represent a long-overdue conversation about whether the country would benefit from having some younger people. in charge. And he has amassed an impressive list of political career accomplishments, beginning in 2004 with ousting a 30-year incumbent member of the South Carolina State House. Haley was the first woman and the first Indian American to be elected governor of South Carolina. Important and primary initial conditions. He was the US ambassador to the United Nations for two years during the Trump administration. As such, he can arguably claim to have more experience across both domestics And foreign policy than any other potential candidate in the 2024 GOP field.

And yet, despite all the positivity in terms of identity, politics and career experience that would seem to make Haley a serious contender for the White House, her announcement on Tuesday was met with something of a collective shudder.

For example, Sen. Take Mike Rounds’ (R–SD) response. “Former governors can do a great job as presidents… I think Nikki is very, very capable,” he told CNN. But when asked if he would endorse her over Trump, Rounds immediately backed away from the idea. “I’ll just say we’re going to let other people run,” he said, before mentioning another South Carolinian, Sen. Tim Scott, whom he’d rather see run.


How to explain the lack of enthusiasm for Haley’s bid? Perhaps the answer is that he arrived only a decade too late. “Haley will lead a Republican Party that no longer exists,” wrote Sarah Longwell, publisher. Bulwark and longtime GOP political consultant.

“However many Republican voters may be As Trump departs from the person, the forces he unleashed in the party—economic populism, isolationist foreign policy, electoral denial, and, above all, a frank and vulgar focus on fighting culture war issues—are incredibly popular with GOP voters, writes Longwell.

That is one possible explanation. But Never Trumpers and neocons who imagine that Haley will be a GOP primary favorite in the pre-Trump days are probably deluding themselves somewhat. Trump’s rise, after all, was driven by the rejection of that same Republican establishment by the party’s own voters.

Still, there’s no doubt that what it means to be a serious Republican presidential contender has changed over the past few years. And until the Republican Party demonstrates its ability to extricate itself from Trump’s shadow, every potential presidential candidate will be judged in part by how they handled the Trump years. This is perhaps a bit unfair – it automatically centers Trump and forces his rivals to fight for space within his gravitational field. But it’s a political party that effectively no longer exists, a more effective way of understanding candidates than judging what they might or might not have been a decade ago.

At this point, Halley also faced some problems. He is not a credible successor to Trump’s political movement but has deliberately tackled it anyway.

That decision can be seen in both personality and policy. In a video of the announcement posted Tuesday, Haley made an awkward pitch to further emasculate the Trumpian side of the GOP. “I don’t put up with bullies. And when you kick from behind, it hurts them even more if you’re wearing heels,” she said.

Trump has a gift for being faux low-brow in a way that’s often funny even when it’s obviously fake, but not everyone can pull it off. Most politicians shouldn’t even try. Haley ran a state government for eight years and was ambassador to the United Nations. He is not literally kicking his political opponents. And if he was, then what was not bad?

Such mixed signals surround Haley’s candidacy. In 2021, Haley said He won’t run if he seeks another term against Trump in 2024. Now, he’s literally the first challenger out of the gate. He stepped down from the Trump administration in 2018 and was rightly critical of the former president’s handling of the post-2020 election, but he has been careful to defend Trump for much of the year.

“Most of Mr. Trump’s major policies have been outstanding and have made America stronger, safer and more prosperous,” he wrote. The Wall Street Journal Op-ed in February 2021. “I will gladly defend much of Trump’s record and his determination to shake up the corrupt status quo in Washington.”

When he broke up with Trump, it didn’t always make much sense. He resigned from Boeing’s board of directors in 2020 after the company lobbied for a federal bailout that Trump supported. “I cannot support the move to lean on the federal government for a stimulus or bailout that prioritizes our company over others and relies on taxpayers to guarantee our financial standing,” he wrote in the resignation letter. It’s good! But in 2013, as governor, he signed a bill giving Boeing $120 million in subsidies aimed at expanding its South Carolina manufacturing facility. That…not so good.

as becauseAs Scott Shackford noted earlier this month, he has fallen into the same populist logical fallacy as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and has advocated for school choice by calling for restrictions on what can be taught in some schools, including critical race theory. He has to some extent copied Trump’s protectionist economic policies, advocating for the US to engage in less trade with China.

Haley’s predicament, then, is that he has become isolated from the remnants of the pre-Trump Republican establishment by adopting some of his former boss’s personality and policies. But he is unwilling to fully commit to Trumpian rebranding in the same way that DeSantis is. That leaves her stuck somewhere in the middle—not another Liz Cheney but far from being another Margorie Taylor Greene.

It might not be a terrible place to be if he had some unifying principle or practical reason for his candidacy. So far, he has made a clear.

So Haley is stuck talking about the need for a “new generation of leadership.” The country needs that to be sure, but everything else about Haley suggests that as president she will land somewhere between Trump’s previous failed Republican policies and his failed policies.