Despite most pundits predicting a Trump cakewalk to a 2024 Republican Presidential Nomination, one particular former member of his own Presidential cabinet could present a huge challenge, should she choose to enter the race. Today, an op-ed headline in the the Boston Herald reads, “Nikki Haley testing the 2024 waters despite contentious relationship with Trump.”
Nikki Haley, who served as ambassador to the United Nations during Trump’s tenure, touts a resume virtually unrivaled by other rumored primary prospects such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and even current Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is often hyped as Trump’s top potential challenger. Cruz has no executive experience in his political career, Chris Christie’s second term was mired by scandal, and DeSantis would not have two full terms as Governor under his belt if he were to become the nominee. In addition to those factors, Haley has three major advantages over Republican rivals:
1. MASS APPEAL TO BOTH SIDES OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY:
Should Trump decline to run in 2024, Nikki Haley would appeal to Trump loyalists as well as establishment conservatives who weren’t enthusiastic supporters of Trump’s 2016 candidacy, nor his Presidency. Even though Haley has occasionally expressed disagreements or disapproval of certain decisions and actions by Trump, she never strongly condemned Trump’s character or policies while she served as ambassador, and if Trump were to endorse any GOP candidate, Haley’s loyalty during her term in office make her one of the most likely to receive his blessing. Ted Cruz would also be considered, but Cruz’s bitter battle with Trump in the 2016 primary is likely to linger in Trump’s mind forever.
Haley’s harshest words for Trump involved the January 6th capitol riot, but virtually every well known Republican conceded that January 6’s worst moments could have been prevented if Trump had intervened earlier and urged the crowd to stand down.
“We need to acknowledge he (Trump) let us down,” Haley said back in February 2021, shortly after the Jan. 6 Capitol rioting. “He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”
2. AN INSPIRING BACKGROUND STORY TO RIVAL ANY OPPONENT, INCLUDING ANY DEMOCRAT:
Even in the 21st Century, Nikki Haley faced tough odds to getting elected as the first female Governor of South Carolina. As a female who was raised by immigrant Indian Punjabi Sikh parents in, Haley’s path to political prominence was far different than her rivals and predecessors in the Palmetto State. She is considered the third non-white person to have been elected as governor of a Southern state, after Virginia’s Douglas Wilder and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal. As we learned from Barack Obama’s success in 2008, Americans enjoy an inspiring story that involves overcoming adversity.
3. THE ‘LIKABILITY’ FACTOR:
Nikki Haley’s southern accent and her calm demeanor helped her win two terms as South Carolina’s governor and buoyed her approval ratings during a tough economic stretch for all Americans. Don’t underestimate the power of charm and charisma. For the past three decades, voters have shown a propensity to pull the lever for the candidate that seems the most authentic and relatable. Bill Clinton’s “I feel your pain” moment in a debate was a microcosm of his campaign for President in 1992. Clinton was seen as the down-to-earth underdog going against an elite, incumbent George H.W. Bush, who oversaw the fall of the Soviet Union and went on to earn high marks for his swiftly efficient Operation Desert Storm strategy that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. Al Gore and John Kerry never had any issue convincing voters that they had a grasp of the top issues and policies of their day, but neither of the warmth, compassion or humor that many voters saw in George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. In 2008, Barack Obama’s campaign was defined by his slogan of “Hope”, and in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s experience as Senator and Secretary of State couldn’t overcome the public perception that she was inauthentic out of touch, calculating and cold. Trump was also seen as cold, but many independent voters who ultimately voted for Trump told exit poll workers that Trump’s straightforward and unscripted speaking style won them over.
Haley’s warm personality and her political experience offers voters the same dynamic combination that propelled Clinton, Bush Jr, and Obama to victory.