Thursday, February 2, 2023

A new Republican contender emerges

 The news broke on Wednesday that former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is about to throw her proverbial hat into the ring for the 2024 presidential race. Haley tweeted about a “big announcement” on February 15, and although numerous wags online speculated that she might be about to release a line of NFT trading cards, more reliable sources say that Haley intends to kick off her presidential campaign.

The big question is why?

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There are only two potential candidates that garner double-digits in 2024 Republican primary polling and Haley is not one of them. In most polling, Donald Trump is the clear front runner with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis nipping at his heels. Former Vice President Mike Pence typically takes third place and Haley checks in at fourth, just ahead of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, the only other potential candidates to score above one percent in the Real Clear Politics average.

Curiously, Haley previously said that she would not run if Trump did. In April 2021, she told the Associated Press, “I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it. That’s something that we’ll have a conversation about at some point if that decision is something that has to be made.”

An early Trump critic, Haley said in the same press conference, just three months after the insurrection, that she and Trump had a “great working relationship.”

Personally, I think Haley is a legitimate conservative, an experienced politician, and a formidable personality. What concerns me most about her is the weakness of character that I see in her relationship with Donald Trump.

As Time describes, she has alternately veered between criticism and adulation when it comes to Trump. In the days after the insurrection, Haley lamented, “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." 

“He’s not going to run for federal office again,” she predicted.

But then, mere months later in October 2021, she said, “We need him in the Republican Party. I don’t want us to go back to the days before Trump,” and even as she prepares to challenge her former boss, she seems unwilling to confront The Former Guy and his abuses of power.

In my estimation, what changed between April 2021 and January 2023 wasn’t some moral or ethical awakening about Donald Trump. It was more likely a realization last November that Donald Trump was a much weaker political force than most Republicans believed.

The rub is that even a weaker Trump is much stronger than any of his potential Republican opponents. Trump routinely polls in the mid-40s to mid-50s and typically holds a double-digit lead over Ron DeSantis, his nearest challenger. Obviously, what Haley and DeSantis and the others are banking on is that Trump will continue to weaken as his legal woes mount.

But will the challengers weaken before Trump does? DeSantis may already be fading n the polls. The two most recent surveys from late January show the younger Florida man, who isn’t yet officially running, in the 20s, down from a run of polls that had him in the 30s over the past few months. For her part, Haley has yet to catch on at all. In the Republican primary, they are playing on Trump’s turf and they know it.

It may be more likely that Haley is counting on a presidential campaign to attract Trump’s notice as a potential running mate. She was reportedly considered for the position by both Mitt Romney in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016. She was also floated as a replacement for Mike Pence in the 2020 election.

If Haley continues to treat Trump with kid gloves on the campaign trail, it may be a sign that her campaign is really an audition for the VP slot. If breaks with Trump and takes him on directly, she’s playing to win. A Republican candidate can’t win without beating Trump, but the two things Trump can’t stand are disloyalty and criticism.

For my part, even though I have admired Haley in the past, I feel pretty strongly that if any former Trump Administration members want to win higher office, they need to unequivocally break with Trump. In particular, they need to break with him on his actions following the 2020 election leading up to January 6, but there’s a lot of stuff that went on in the Trump Administration that Republicans need to repent for.

Ideally, all Republicans would go through this process, but I’m willing to be a little more lenient on state-level Republicans who didn’t work directly with Trump. Many of these officials have already been quietly distancing themselves from The Former Guy for years. I’d love for them to be more vocal about it, but today’s Republican Party is what it is and you just can’t be too critical of Trump and still win the primary. (My readers will know that I have different problems with Ron DeSantis despite the fact that he is not a Trump insider.)

Silence on the issue of the insurrection and Trump’s attempt to steal the election isn’t great, but it’s at least somewhat understandable. However, the people who worked directly with Trump and enabled him during his term need to be held to a higher standard. Voters shouldn’t allow them to straddle the fence.

People like Nikki Haley, who have been wishy-washy about Trump’s many abuses of power, should not be trusted with power on their own. As recently as a couple of years ago, I thought that Haley might bridge the gap between Never Trump conservatives and MAGA Republicans, but she stubbornly refuses to make amends for her part in Trump’s bad behavior and even after the insurrection lauded him as a Great Republican.

For that reason, I’m out.

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KEMP GETS SOME SPOTLIGHT: Over the weekend, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp got some attention as a possible presidential contender. Kemp has not announced any intention to run, having just been elected to a second four-year term as governor, but Cook Political Report was among several outlets noting that the Georgian is “well-positioned” as a potential contender. I’d just like to point out that our longtime readers heard it here first in my piece from last May.

MY EGGZEPTIONAL WIFE: I hate to toot the competition’s horn, but Harvest Prude of The Dispatch recently interviewed my wife for an article about egg prices. My lovely bride, Debi, has long kept chickens, “the pet that poops breakfast,” and had some tips for potential chicken owners who are seeking to save on eggs. Read the article here. Maybe we’ll have to have Debi do a how-to piece for Racket News.

By the Racket News

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