How Haley Could Truly Shake Up The Race

[ Posted Monday, January 29th, 2024 – 16:28 UTC ]

There is an interesting idea making the rounds in the political punditry world of late, and I have to say it is an intriguing one. Nikki Haley has a very slim chance of chalking up any wins in Republican primaries, either before or on Super Tuesday, so sooner or later she's going to have to bow to the inevitable and drop out of the GOP race. This will leave Trump as the Republican nominee, but what if this isn't the end of the campaign trail for Haley? Instead of disappearing, what would happen if Haley then ran as the No Labels candidate?

The group has indicated that it might want to put a Democrat and a Republican on the same ticket, so perhaps they'd pair Haley with someone like Joe Manchin in the veep slot. But nobody really votes for veep, so it would be Haley any independent-minded voters would be choosing.

This could flip the script on the whole No Labels effort. Up until now, most people have seen the entire thing as a stalking-horse effort to ensure that Joe Biden is not re-elected, which is being funded in the dark by big conservative donors. The No Labels people insist that that's not the case, and that they aren't going to run a race just to be "a spoiler" for anybody. Few believe them, but nominating Haley would indeed put a whole new spin on their effort.

If Haley can manage to be the last person standing in the race with Trump, it proves she's got at least some appeal to Republican voters -- especially those disillusioned (or worse) with Donald Trump's antics. And perhaps her "trying to sound like all things to all people" rhetoric might actually win over some suburban voters as well. She might, in fact, be the most viable third-party choice around.

What would this do for Biden's chances? Or Trump's? That's impossible to say, but I'd wager at this point that it'd be worth doing some polling to see how that three-way race would shake out with some voters.

As with any third-party candidate, it would be almost impossible for Haley to actually win. But that's only "almost" -- it might indeed be plausible to see Haley win whole states. Donald Trump is facing all kinds of legal woes in the coming months, and they all could eventually lead to Trump fatigue among those Republican voters who actually want to see their candidate have a shot at winning. They might be easy to peel off, for Haley, depending on Trump's legal developments.

Haley would likely also pull off some Democratic voters, but what I wonder is if she would pick up the voters who now say they're supporting Robert F. Kennedy Junior. If Haley has a much clearer shot at possibly winning, I could see some of those disaffected folks decide to switch their support to Nikki.

Haley had, up until Iowa voted, largely refrained from attacking Trump in any discernable way. She sharpened up a bit for New Hampshire, but after Trump's boorish victory speech there, she's really decided to light into him (at least, more so than any other Republican not named "Chris Christie" has so far). Is this just the last gasp of her effort to actually secure a victory in her home state, or is she truly taking on Trump and his MAGA supporters? That still remains to be seen.

It certainly seems like Haley has now all but given up on any hopes of the possibility of being named Trump's vice presidential running mate. That was the main reason why all the Republicans running against Trump withheld their fire, because they didn't want to annoy him too much or give the MAGA supporters any reason to hate them. That way, perhaps a cushy cabinet job would be in the cards later (and yes, I am looking at both Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott when I say that). Haley currently seems to be in the process of burning that bridge, which is certainly an interesting development.

Haley likely wouldn't pull in many disaffected progressive votes. Her track record is awfully conservative, and even though she is trying to soften her party's abortion stance, she's still in favor of a national ban. And that's just one example. Unlike Trump, Haley actually does take stands on many issues, but when examined, those stances are seriously right-wing for the most part and very hawkish on foreign policy. That's not going to convince, say, people who voted for Bernie Sanders to jump on the Nikki train.

If Haley truly has ruled out any chance of being named Trump's veep, then she's going to have to face a decision soon. If winning the Republican nomination is impossible for her (which it almost certainly is), then she would face the end of the political road for her for at least the next two years (she could always stage a comeback, either in 2026 or even in the 2028 presidential race). She'd be out in the wilderness, with perhaps a cable news contract to keep the money flowing in.

Or she could jump ship and join up with a third-party effort that is already going to appear on many state ballots and is impressively funded with tens of millions of dollars. If Haley pulled her own donors along with her, the No Labels effort would be just as financially well-positioned as the two main parties to be competitive in November.

Haley could conceivably win in many red or even purple states. It's not likely -- it'd still be a longshot even with Haley at the top of the ticket -- but it would indeed fall within the realm of possibility. For No Labels, it might mean that Democrats stop attacking them, and instead they would face the wrath of the MAGA faithful. It certainly would throw a monkey wrench into the entire contest.

Haley may decide to turn it down, even if offered. She might want to try to preserve her viability in the Republican Party in the hopes of it eventually entering a post-Trump phase. Running as a third-party candidate against Trump (especially if it means Biden wins in November) is going to preclude Haley from ever being a Republican in good standing ever again. It would be an enormous gamble for her.

But, as I began with, it certainly is an interesting idea to consider.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


One Comment on “How Haley Could Truly Shake Up The Race”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Running as a third-party candidate against Trump (especially if it means Biden wins in November) is going to preclude Haley from ever being a Republican in good standing ever again. It would be an enormous gamble for her.

    In good standing with what? The Republican party!?

Comments for this article are closed.