Nikki Haley’s Open Field
The Capitol riots cleared the way for a 2024 run by a daughter of immigrants who offers Trumpism-without-trump
The January 6 riot cleared the way for a politician offering Trumpismwithout-trump.
Nikki Haley was a Donald Trump loyalist, one of the rare high-profile cabinet members to leave the White House on good terms. Trump son-inlaw Jared Kushner even told Newsweek last summer that she'd be welcome to return, anytime she chose. But there she was on the Laura Ingraham show on Fox News in late January, offering a distinctly non-trumpian view of the 2020 election.
“We lost a lot of women and a lot of college-educated. We want to bring them back in and expand the tent,” she said. “January 6 was a tough day, and the actions of the president since Election Day were not his finest, and [that] troubles me greatly because I'm really proud of the successes of the Trump administration, whether it was foreign policy or domestic policy. [But] the actions of the president, post election day, were not great.”
Haley's statement rocked the GOP and, not coincidentally, articulated a rationale for her own 2024 run, assuming she wants one. She was careful to praise Trump's achievements, but she unmistakably distanced herself from her former boss in a way that other potential 2024 candidates—ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul—have not. In Trump-world in Mar-a-lago, says a former senior campaign adviser who was granted anonymity in order to speak candidly, “heads were exploding.”
As a pro-business, fairly conventional Republican governor of South Carolina, Haley had won the support of women and college-educated voters in two statewide elections. Left unsaid— it didn't need to be said—was that she didn't think Trump could win those voters back, and that she could. It also went without saying that as an Indian-american woman, she would be perfect casting to run against Vice President Kamala Harris.
Haley's comments made clear how profoundly the Capitol debacle has altered the party landscape. With his Republican-record 74 million votes in 2020 and his close defeat (which his base didn't accept, in any case), Donald Trump was the overwhelming GOP frontrunner for 2024. If the former president himself didn't run, the leading spot would surely go to a Trump-anointed surrogate like Don Jr. or Cruz. But the violence in D.C. shriveled the Trumpists' political power, and even an acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial won't restore their hold.
Many analysts had already speculated about Don Jr.'s prospects. During the 2016 campaign and ever since, Trump's eldest son had taken a high profile political role in speeches, TV appearances and on social media, defending his father and eviscerating his critics. He was good on the stump, energized crowds and seemed to relish political combat. He had no political experience—he still works as an executive vice president of his father's company—but as his father's 2016 win made clear, that can be a plus.
In the weeks since the 6th, Trump and his supporters comforted themselves with polls that showed the former president retained significant support among GOP voters. An NBC survey taken in late January showed 87 per cent approved of Trump's performance as president–just two points lower than his approval rating among Republicans just before the election.
But Junior's political ambitions fell along with the Capitol barricades. He had been a warm-up speaker at the “Stop the Steal” rally that turned deadly. Since then he has been on social media, defending the rally and bashing Democratic critics— almost as if nothing important had happened. Most political analysts and even some Trump loyalists can't believe he actually thinks that. “If any of [the Trumps] are thinking about a political future, then rehabilitating the ‘brand's' post-january 6 image has to be a 24/7 operation,” says the former campaign adviser.
Haley to the Rescue?
For Those republicans who believe THE party should simply move on from the Trumps—just as it did from the Bushes after George W.'s disastrous eight years in the White House—there stands Nikki Haley. She's an obvious choice for a party that needs to expand beyond non-college-educated white men. She's an Indian-american woman, the daughter of immigrant parents, and has a record as a capable, two-term governor. As U.N. ambassador she worked quietly and, to hear several of her fellow ambassadors tell it, effectively in pushing Trump's foreign