Nikki Haley is now the favorite “not Donald Trump” candidate in the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. The former ambassador to the United Nations has been making a big push among Republicans in New Hampshire ahead of the state’s primary vote on January 23. And her efforts seem to be paying off.
A new CBS poll from New Hampshire puts Haley on 29 percent, behind Donald Trump on 44 percent, with flailing Ron DeSantis a distant third on 11 percent. The survey suggests Haley making inroads among New Hampshire’s more moderate voters thanks to her less right-wing positions on issues such as abortion and because she is seen as the candidate least similar to Trump in terms of personality.
But the hype behind Haley gives off more than a whiff of desperation. One poll in one state showing Haley only fifteen points behind hardly suggests that Trump has much to worry about. Trump is forging ahead among likely caucus-goers in Iowa, where Republicans will vote on January 15. Trump did not win in Iowa in 2016, and Ron DeSantis had hoped his social conservatism might give him an edge in the state. But his campaign seems to be dwindling into irrelevance as the New Year approaches. One of his key strategists, Jeff Roe, has just resigned.
DeSantis’s pitch was that he could be a more competent version of Trump. Haley’s appeal, by contrast, is that she is different — something more centrist and less divisive. She therefore appeals to the large number of voters suffering from Trump fatigue. And she now has the financial support and organizational strength of the Koch network, the biggest conservative donors in American politics, behind her.
The media, desperate to avoid a boring coronation, are keen to boost Haley
At the end of last month, Americans for Prosperity Action, the Koch group, announced that America “is being ripped apart by extremes on both sides… The moment we face requires a tested leader with the governing judgment and policy experience to pull our nation back from the brink. Nikki Haley is that leader.”
If all the right-of-center factions who want to stop Donald Trump coalesce around Haley, she could potentially challenge the 45th president in some states. But that’s an extremely tall order. Trump has the advantages of an incumbent president, even if he is not in the White House, and the Republican Party machine appears to have fallen in line with him before even the race for the nomination began.
New Hampshire may be a little more unpredictable than in other states. The media, desperate to avoid a boring coronation, are keen to boost Haley as someone who might enliven the primaries. But Trump will probably still win New Hampshire, just as he did in 2016, and roll on inevitably towards the nomination in 2024.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.