In 2008, Hillary Clinton showed good judgment by refraining from suggesting that her main competitor, Barack Obama, become her vice president until he had proven himself through the electoral process. In contrast, Donald Trump seems to feel threatened by his leading rival, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, as he has already started considering her as his potential running mate even before the first primary has taken place.
The sound of Haley’s high heels reverberates in Trump’s ears, growing louder with each passing day. It’s evident that Trump must be feeling quite fearful to take the risk of giving the Haley campaign even more attention and positive media coverage by openly considering her as a potential running mate. Haley’s recent surge in the polls, particularly in New Hampshire and her gaining momentum in Iowa, has captured Trump’s attention to the extent that he’s been seeking opinions about her from individuals outside of his campaign, as reported by Politico.
Despite Trump’s continued influence on the party and strong performance in the polls, Nikki Haley’s political rise is undeniable. However, she still trails behind Trump by 15 percentage points in New Hampshire and overall. Trump remains the favored candidate to win the South Carolina GOP primary, and there is little indication that his base would ever consider choosing someone else or accept results that do not show him as the victor. This presents a significant dilemma for establishment Republicans who admire Haley. On one hand, they recognize her potential as a formidable candidate in the general election against President Joe Biden and as a way for the party to move beyond Trump. On the other hand, they are well aware of the events of January 6, 2021, and understand better than most that sidelining Trump could lead to a Republican Civil War. These Republicans have benefited from the fervor of the MAGA base since 2016 but are also cautious of potentially getting burnt by it in 2024.
The intriguing aspect of Trump’s interest in a potential Haley vice presidency lies in the unwavering support he continues to receive from his party. Despite facing numerous criminal indictments, making inflammatory remarks about immigrants reminiscent of Nazi-era rhetoric, and even jokingly declaring his desire to become a dictator during his second term, his loyal base remains firmly by his side. They have shown their willingness to defend him, even resorting to violent attacks on the very foundations of our democracy. Despite this, Trump’s thoughts persistently turn to Haley.
In 2008, Clinton realized that Obama posed a genuine threat, but this understanding may not have fully dawned on her until he emerged victorious in the Iowa caucuses and garnered more delegates and votes than she did during the primary season. As for Haley, the threat she poses is currently just a promise, although I believe it to be a real one. She has yet to secure a single primary vote since none have been cast. Additionally, she hasn’t been put to the test on a debate stage alongside Trump, as he has chosen to avoid participating in the early debates. At this point, all she has are positive vibes, increasing poll numbers, and an increasing number of favorable headlines.
Perhaps Trump recognizes the same thing that I do – that a person of color, particularly a woman, would need to possess extraordinary political skills in order to become the governor of a state like South Carolina. This could be why his supporters, including Tucker Carlson and Steve Bannon, are feeling uneasy about the prospect of Nikki Haley entering the race. Trump was expecting an easy path towards securing the GOP nomination for a third time, but now this candidate from rural South Carolina is posing a significant challenge to what was believed to be an inevitable outcome.
I do not want to see either Trump or Haley in the White House, in any position. However, I acknowledge that Haley poses less of a direct threat to our democracy compared to Trump. Nevertheless, it is evident that Haley has accomplished something that few believed was possible: offering a genuine alternative to the aspiring GOP leader.
Issac Bailey contributes his insightful opinions as a writer for McClatchy, focusing on the states of North and South Carolina.
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