It is no secret former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley harbors presidential aspirations. Nor is it any secret that – following her militant tenure as America’s ambassador to the United Nations – the neoconservative (a.k.a. warmonger) establishment will support her when she runs.
“With a coterie of advisers, Haley is choosing each step to maximize her notoriety and chart a course to the White House,” noted David M. Drucker for The Washington Examiner earlier this spring, adding that the 47-year-old Indian-American was “meticulously laying the foundation for a presidential bid in 2024, forming a nonprofit organization to sustain her political-rock-star profile while she builds a financial nest egg so her family can afford her political ambitions.”
So far, so good …
Haley has made it clear she is not running against her former rival Donald Trump – whose 2016 presidential bid she tried hard to torpedo.
Trump is “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president,” Haley told reporters during the last “First in the South” GOP presidential primary – just prior to her endorsement of establishment favorite Marco Rubio.
After Trump won the presidency, though, Haley found herself open to a most unexpected overture from the victor she had tried to vanquish. With Trump feeling indebted to one of his “First in the South” supporters – then-lieutenant governor Henry McMaster – she accepted an appointment as his UN ambassador (thus elevating McMaster to the governor’s office).
That appointment has had national reverberations … the most recent of which is Haley’s trip to early-voting Iowa.
What is the point of the visit? Ostensibly, Haley is in Iowa to campaign on behalf of U.S. senator Joni Ernst – who is seeking a second term in office in 2020.
But Haley’s visit immediately sparked speculation about her national ambitions – as well as Trump’s future plans.
“Ambassador Haley has no plan to run for political office,” Haley spokesperson Chaney Denton told reporter Andy Shain of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier on Friday. “America is the greatest country in the world, and she believes we all have a part to play in keeping it that way. For her, that means using the power of her voice to stand up for conservative candidates and policies that make America stronger.”
Obviously that quote is not at all interesting, but Shain’s story concluded with a very interesting bit of speculation regarding Haley, Trump and U.S. vice president Mike Pence.
Even if Trump suddenly bows out of the running for a second term, the conventional wisdom is that the Republican Party would back Vice President Mike Pence in such a short election window.
Wait … what?
This is actually the second time this week we have heard credible speculation about Trump not running in 2020 – which seems ludicrous when you consider he has monolithic GOP support, slowly-but-steadily-improving poll numbers and a massive cash advantage over his leading Democratic opponents.
Which reminds us … Trump’s Democratic opposition is badly divided and veering further in the direction of the radical/ socialist fringe with each passing day.
At this stage of the game, we see nothing to prevent Trump from running again (and if the economy holds steady, likely being installed as an even money bet to win reelection). Still, the chatter that he might not seek a second term persists – and seeped back into the narrative in a big way the moment Haley’s out-of-nowhere Iowa visit was announced.
So … what gives?
This week, we had conversations with several national operatives who are familiar with the status of the Trump reelection bid. According to them, these are dark times for the president.
For starters, a recent polling project in fourteen states – including multiple swing states vital to Trump’s 2020 reelection – reportedly “did not go well.”
Also, there is palpable fear that Democrats in congress have uncovered sufficient ammunition within the recently released Mueller report to initiate damaging impeachment hearings against Trump.
Trump and his allies are working overtime in the public eye to frame the report and its findings as an exoneration of the administration, but behind the scenes they are acknowledging several glaring vulnerabilities.
Could these vulnerabilities conceivably compel Trump to cut a deal that would take him out of the 2020 race? Again, at this stage of the game we see nothing to suggest Trump is not running next year.
But if these persistent whispers have any foundation in fact, Haley’s “meticulous” machinations will begin to take on significant import.
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