Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Nikki Haley Would Be a Great Candidate--for the 2016 Republican Nomination

As we noted yesterday, Nikki Haley is running for president (or more likely, vice president). She is conservative, intelligent, experienced, charismatic, telegenic, and has been the governor of an early primary state and ambassador to the United Nations. She is an ideal candidate for the Republican Party—as it existed in 2015. Sarah Longwell, a pollster who has been running focus goups of Republican voters since the start of 2022, knows quite a bit about those voters, and this is her take on Haley.

Longwell sees her as a middle-tier candidate, along with the Mikes and maybe even Chris Christie, for a lane that probably doesn't exist any more: the normal conservative Republican lane. One look at Haley shows you that she doesn't get it. She usually wears a pendant around her neck with the logo of her state, the Palmetto Bug, instead of a cross. Wrong! That is especially bad in her case because many people will assume she is a Hindu (she was never a Hindu but her parents are Sikhs) when actually she is a Methodist. In contrast, Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) always wears a cross, even though nobody would suspect she was not a Christian. You have to keep giving the base red meat, even when your mouth is closed.

Longwell says the fundamental problem for all of the candidates above is that the forces that Donald Trump unleashed have changed the Republican Party in ways that make candidates like these obsolete. The voters now demand economic populism, isolationism, election denialism, and culture wars. Haley's strength is foreign policy, since she was ambassador to the U.N. But when she tells the voters that she is on first-name terms with most of the world leaders, they're going to tell her: "Screw the rest of the world. We don't care who is leading all those sh**hole countries out there. We're for America First!" That kind of punctures her balloon even faster than a sidewinder missile could.

Longwell also notes that while some Republican voters are kind of tired of Trump, the man, they still eat up Trumpism. Haley is definitely not the new Trump. Maybe Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is. We don't know yet. Given his degrees from Yale (magna cum laude) and Harvard Law School, claiming to be a man of the people could be tricky, but he's trying. Multimillionaire venture capitalist Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) managed to sell it, certainly. Haley fails the test because she won't mock disabled people or experts. Yes, she throws red meat to the base, but her style is wrong. She is not venal, aggressive, and proud of it. She would have made a great veep for Jeb!, though.

Her pitch "It's time for a new generation" is fine. So why not DeSantis, Mike Pompeo, or for that matter, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA)? Being younger than Trump and Biden isn't some special super power only she has.

Longwell's studies have shown that Haley has a 47% favorability with Republican primary voters and only 9% unfavorable. That's excellent. But in primary polls, she comes in around 4% at best. That's not excellent. So the Republican voters think she is a decent, experienced person. Only that's not what they want. They want someone who will burn the house down, and that's not Haley.

If you want to know more about Haley, Politico has an article listing 55 facts about her, for example:

We hope Politico also compiles a list of 50+ facts about all the other candidates.

The New York Times went a different route. The editor asked all the columnists if we should take her seriously. Here is a very brief selection of some of their comments.

Our take: chance of getting the presidential nomination: 0.001%. Chance of getting the vice presidential nomination with Trump: 5%. Chance of getting the vice presidential nomination with DeSantis: 25%. (V)

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