Dem 51
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Koch Will Try to Block Trump with Nikki Haley

The living Koch brother (Charles) leads a network of well-to-do political donors, pretty much all of whom hate Donald Trump. This is due, in part, to the fact that Team Koch is very libertarian and Team Trump is not. And it is due, in part, to the fact that a Trump presidency introduces instability and uncertainty, and those things are bad for business. So, the Kochtopus really would like another Republican presidential candidate to rally behind, someone who is not a Trump clone like Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). Yesterday, Koch announced that he and his fellows have found their champion in the person of Nikki Haley.

The Koch network is very dialed in, so it's not like they just woke up yesterday and became aware of Haley's candidacy. It's been obvious for a very long time that the only GOP candidates who, if not on the same page, are at least in the same book as the Koch group, are Haley, Chris Christie and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). What the billionaires were waiting for was some faint hope that one of those three became viable enough that throwing money at them was not a total waste. Now, either because Haley is surging, or because the Koch network is getting desperate, they've discovered that faint hope with Haley.

It is undoubtedly good news for Haley '24 that she is rising in polls, and now she's got big-time financial backing. And it's certainly big enough news that we had to write about it. But we are not buying, for one second, that this is any kind of game changer. Dumping money on Haley is not all that much different from just shoveling it into a fireplace.

Broadly speaking, money will only get you so far, especially when it's coming from a small number of fat cats. The Kochs can't give their money directly to Haley; all they can do is support her through a PAC. That means TV commercials, maybe some ground game, maybe some mailers. Oh, and the PAC has to pay a much higher price for advertising because it's not a campaign. Koch and friends could drop $1 billion on Haley, and it still wouldn't move the needle enough to erase even a small fraction of the roughly 40 points by which Haley trails Trump. Remember Michael Bloomberg.

And to add a bit more in the way of specifics, let's squint and try to game this thing out in the best-case scenario for Haley. If evangelicals really are pissed about Donald Trump's snotty comments, and if the Koch money is enough to create the greatest ground game in history, there's a chance that in the wonky caucus system, Haley pulls out a miracle victory in Iowa.

Then, since she's spent a lot of time in New Hampshire, and since the state's Republicans are pretty moderate, and since small electorates can produce weird results, maybe she scores another upset in the Granite State.

After that is South Carolina, where Haley is not polling especially well. Still, maybe on the heels of two wins in a row, she manages to rally some "favorite daughter" sentiment, and pull off a third straight upset.

There are a whole lot of "ifs" and "maybes" and "just possiblys" in there, but various quirky aspects of the first three states allow us to at least imagine a world in which Haley gets off to a roaring start. But then what? Not long after South Carolina, we start running into big states and/or states that vote in groups. Ground game, money, "favorite daughter," wonky electorates, etc. will no longer be enough (or close to enough) to win. Meanwhile, many of the states that vote after the first four are full of Trumpy voters who don't concern themselves with electability, don't care if Trump might go to prison, and don't want to vote for any person who is not The Donald, no matter how Trumpy a non-Trump candidate might pretend to be. Point is, Koch and his friends can maybe keep the fantasy going for a few months, but there is a 100% chance that Haley will eventually run into a Trumpy wall that cannot be surmounted. Which, by the way, is the only Trumpy wall that actually has the power to stop someone.

Of course, even if the Koch network is just a side show, and one that's about to waste millions of dollars on a wild goose chase, Trump does not like it when someone opposes him, particularly in high-profile fashion. So, he was furious about the news, and his campaign sent out an e-mail blast that, well, blasted Koch & Co.:

"Patriot, With [sic] just hours to go until the 11/30 end-of-month fundraising deadline, a corrupt network of globalist RINO donors announced they're going to spend TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to prop up a puppet GOP candidate to try and defeat us in the primary," began the emailed fundraising appeal. "Voting begins in only 48 DAYS—and these RINO backstabbers are now going to launch a last-minute vicious assault against us in the early primary states."

As a reminder, "corrupt network of globalist(s)" is thinly veiled code for "Jews." Charles Koch is not Jewish (he's agnostic), nor are his fellow Koch Networkers, but who cares about piddling details when there's opportunity for a little subtle bigotry? And, truth be told, now that Trump is persuaded that Haley is enemy #1, the outright bigotry should be along very soon. Well, unless he mixes it up a bit and goes with some outright misogyny, instead.

All this said, we must acknowledge that voters are a funny lot, and they make the unexpected possible. There is one other scenario that is conceivable, however unlikely. Suppose Haley manages to win most or all of four early states due to their own peculiarities. Then, on March 4, Trump goes on trial. The only news that day will be the trial. The next day, Super Tuesday, 16 states and American Samoa will vote. The combination of four early wins, $100 million worth of Kochtopus ads for weeks in those states, and the start of the trial, might just shake up enough voters to allow Haley to win a few states. If that happens, there could be a real race going forward. All the stars have to align perfectly for this to happen, but stranger things have happened in politics (like a reality TV actor being elected president in 2016). (Z)

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