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Nikki Haley Is a Pretty Mediocre Politician

Nikki Haley clearly knew what she needed to do and to say in order to be elected governor of South Carolina. But now she is running a national campaign, and is doing so as a decided underdog. And nearly every time she adopts a new policy position in order to separate herself from the crowd, she demonstrates that she is now out of her league.

Haley's latest policy proposal involves Social Security, and keeping the program solvent. What she wants to do is raise the retirement age, but only for people who are just now beginning to pay into the system. "What you would do is, for those in their 20s coming into the system," she explained, "we would change the retirement age so that it matches life expectancy." When asked what specific, new retirement age she has in mind, Haley said: "It's the new ones coming in. It's those in their 20s that are coming in. You're coming to them and you're saying, the game has changed. We're going to do this completely differently." The careful reader will note that there is nothing close to an answer to the question in her response.

We can scarcely imagine what Haley is thinking here. To start, the Social Security Trust Fund is going to run into trouble in 10-15 years. Making changes that will save money in—what, 50 years?—is not much help when it comes to the immediate crisis. Meanwhile, young voters are not especially reliable when it comes to turnout. But if you want to light a fire under them, and to get them to show up and to vote for your opponent, this is a pretty good way to do it. Finally, for her to make the proposal but then dance around the specific answer to the most basic question (what age?) makes her look shady. The whole proposal was clumsy enough that even Fox called Haley out on it. Admittedly, it was Neil Cavuto, who is probably the least-Tucker-Carlson-like person left on the Fox payroll. But it's still Fox, nonetheless.

Ultimately, Haley's flailing around, as she tries to get a foothold, doesn't matter very much. We did not believe she was a viable candidate for president when she announced, and we still don't. She might be a VP candidate, but if that somehow comes to pass, her policy positions won't matter.

The bigger story here, really, is that Social Security is rapidly becoming the 800-pound gorilla in the room. It's the most popular federal program, it's in some trouble, and politicians can't avoid it. And Republican politicians have the additional problem that they can't come up with any fixes that are: (1) better than what the Democrats are proposing, and (2) acceptable to the GOP base. In this way, Social Security is exactly like Obamacare. No wonder Joe Biden is maneuvering to make it the focal point of his reelection pitch. (Z)

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