Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Why Won't Haley Drop Out?

Nikki Haley seems to be tilting at windmills (which is not as environmentally friendly as tilting at oil derricks, but she is a Republican, after all). Why? One popular explanation is if she stays in all the way to the convention and gets 25-35% of the vote in the process, then if "something" happens to Trump, the convention might just pick her as the next in line. The "something" could be a health-related incident, a law-related incident, being caught on a hot mic saying something devastating like "my base consists of dumb hayseeds whose only value is for me to suck the maximum amount of money possible out of them. I certainly don't plan on helping these gullible yokels in any way," or something unexpected. As long as she can continue to pull in enough small-dollar donations to fund her travel and a small staff for 4 more months, why not keep going? She doesn't have anything better to do.

Conservative columnist Henry Olsen has a different theory. He writes that she is almost certainly aware of the RNC rules. One of the rules is that candidates who have a plurality of the vote in at least five states can get their names formally placed in nomination and get air time. If Haley can win five states, she could give a speech tearing Trump to bits and urging Republicans to write her name in or even stay at home. Trump wouldn't be able to tolerate that and would then have to negotiate a deal with her, giving her some real power. She might, for example, demand a formal written platform (which the Party didn't have in 2020) and insist on a few planks she cares about, such as a promise to remain in NATO and a national ban on abortion only after week 16 of a pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest, and health of the mother far beyond that. Getting her on board and not causing floor fights (which would lead to "Republicans in disarray" headlines), might force Trump to negotiate with her and allow her to extract concessions from him. So her clout depends a lot on whether she can actually win any states.

Winning five states is a long shot, and she seems to understand this. She knows that she can never win deep-red states with closed primaries where only Republicans can vote. Her best chances are in moderate states with open primaries (anyone can vote in either primary) or semi-closed primaries (independents can vote in either primary). The goal would be to win five open or semi-closed states with help from non-Republicans or independents, respectively. Her messaging could emphasize the need for independents and Democrats to vote for her, where allowed, to save the country from Trump. Since she is never going to get always-Trumpers to vote for her, openly pitching to independents and Democrats has no downside anymore.

Her travel plans seem to indicate that she understands all of this. She has held two rallies in Michigan. Next up is Minnesota. Both are moderate states that do not allow voters to register in a party so both hold open primaries. She is also campaigning in Colorado, a blue state where independents can vote in either primary and where moderate Joe O'Dea crushed a MAGA opponent in the 2022 Republican senatorial primary. And she is campaigning in the affluent and well-educated Denver suburbs where O'Dea won big time. Then she goes to Utah, which holds a caucus on Super Tuesday. Odd? No. Remember that LDS church members don't like Trump and the caucus is semi-closed.

After that it is east for rallies in North Carolina, Virginia and D.C. Virginia has an open primary (because there is no party registration) and North Carolina has a semi-closed one. D.C. has a closed primary, but it is ground zero for the never-Trump Republican elite. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and then-governor John Kasich got a combined 73% of the vote there in 2016. Finally, we come to an event in Needham, MA, a town where the median household income is over $200,000 and 80% of the adults have at least a college degree. Massachusetts is a semi-closed state. Then up to Vermont, which is not only an open state but one that currently has a Republican governor, Phil Scott, who has endorsed Haley.

Actually winning five states is a very steep hill to climb, but it is not impossible and assuming enough small donations keep coming in, does she really have something better to do for the next couple of weeks? Olsen may be wrong, but Haley's campaign choices seem to suggest he may be onto something.

Of course, if Haley fails to win five states, she is likely to drop out and endorse Trump to preserve her viability for 2028. After all, her viability is more important than her dignity. (V)

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