Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley continues her long-shot campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in the hopes that her home state gives her a shot at competing with former President Donald Trump.
But she faces the same hurdles that she faced in both New Hampshire and Iowa. A wide majority of Republican voters continue supporting Trump no matter how hard Haley tries to spin a third-place finish in Iowa and falling below Trump by double digits in New Hampshire. Trump is expected to also crush Haley in Nevada on February 8 as she tries to refocus on South Carolina.
South Carolina does not look very good for Haley either. A new Republican poll by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates shows Trump leading Haley 66 to 31. That’s incredible.
On the surface, Haley is optimistic she can boost her support in her home state where she was a two-term governor. “They know I was a good governor. Now we’re going to show them I’m going to be a good president,” she told Fox News in a recent interview.
While Haley still gets high approval ratings for her time as South Carolina governor, these voters still favor Trump to be the Republican nominee.
It appears that Haley overestimates her influence in her home state — just as she did in 2015 when she endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio for president in the 2016 primary. Rubio had finished third place in Iowa and fifth place in New Hampshire, but Haley believed she could boost his chances of beating Trump. Rubio finished second to Trump that year in South Carolina and was still ten points behind.
Now facing her own South Carolina loss, why is Haley still in the race? The more cynical answer is that there’s enough anti-Trump money to fund her campaign for the next month and her consultants would rather earn another healthy paycheck before the gig is up. She can certainly afford it. Haley scheduled more than 10 fundraisers with some of the most wealthy Republican donors — in California, Florida, New York, and Texas.
I’m sure part of the calculus is to boost her political brand as long as possible to fuel her future presidential ambitions. “I have every intention of going to Super Tuesday, through Super Tuesday,” she told Meet the Press, indicating that states like South Carolina and Michigan with open primaries could allow her to attract Democrats and moderates to her side.
The same strategy failed in New Hampshire, so it is unlikely to work in deep red South Carolina or even the blue state of Michigan, where Trump is still popular among Republicans.
Although the left continues failing to give Haley a victory over Trump, they are cheering her stubbornness, gleeful that she will be attacking Trump for at least another month.
“Every day that she’s in there, every day that she’s on the attack is a good day,” said Democrat political consultant James Carville said in an interview.
"We're going to do a cheer for the Koch Brothers and Liz Cheney in 2024!" grinned former press secretary for Joe Biden and now MSNBC anchor Jen Psaki referring to former Republicans who were supporting Haley.
It’s unlikely Haley has a chance at winning any state where Trump is still on the ballot. Maybe she’s just waiting it out, calculating that support could ultimately crater for Trump if he ends up in jail or off the ballot in November. Or maybe she's just waiting for November 2028, calculating that Trump will lose and she'll be next. That's the biggest reason a candidate keeps fighting for second place.
Charlie Spiering is a Wyoming native who works in Washington, D.C., where he continues writing about the White House, Congress and national politics. A former writer for Breitbart News, The Washington Examiner and columnist Robert Novak, Spiering frequently returns home to the family farm in Powell to escape the insanity of Washington.