Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley has already written two books, but so far no one has written the definitive book on her. This week, reporter Tim Alberta of Politico came as close as anyone with a gargantuan piece detailing her 2024 presidential aspirations.
Entitled “Nikki Haley’s Time For Choosing,” the sprawling three-section expose is heavy on Haley’s formative biography, her political origins in South Carolina and her ascension to the national stage.
But the fundamental theme of the piece is something we have been writing for some time now … namely that Haley, who was a #NeverTrumper during the 2016 presidential campaign (and briefly became one again last month) has struggled in her efforts to navigate the Republican party in the era of Donald Trump.
In fact, we noted her latest course correction just a few weeks ago … when Haley veered back in the direction of Trump’s camp (not unlike another up-and-coming female politico from the Palmetto State).
“We suspect this is not the last time her weather vane will creak in this direction as she comes to grips with the fact that GOP primary voters are remaining surprisingly loyal to Trump despite the disastrous end to his administration,” we wrote in our latest treatment of Haley’s ongoing tightrope walk.
As we noted in our previous coverage, Haley’s 2024 ambition has been panned at points all along the media spectrum.
“Nikki Haley is a social-climbing political opportunist whose most deeply held political belief is Nikki Haley,” Christopher Bedford of The Federalist wrote recently, channeling the right-of-center repudiation of Haley.
But mainstream media “opinion leaders” have taken a similarly dim view of Haley – accusing her of mindlessly pandering to Trump voters.
“She is reduced to hollering about socialism,” columnist Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post wrote in a recent column about Haley. “Perhaps with an eye on 2024, she figures nonsensical accusations are the way to gain favor in her intellectually vacant party.”
Of course the most incisive rebuke of Haley came from a Post columnist who had a front-row seat to her rise in South Carolina: Kathleen Parker.
Parker blasted the former ambassador last fall as “a cartoonish fussbudget” who “bought her own myth and sold it cheap.”
As the title to his tome suggests, Alberta is all over this theme …
“This is her constant tension, a tug-of-war between conscience and calculation,” Alberta wrote, adding that “two distinct versions of Haley (are) on a collision course.”
“She is still trying to have it both ways,” Alberta editorialized. “At the heart of this contradiction is a showdown between who she wants to be and who she thinks she needs to be. Nikki Haley’s fundamental conflict is not with Donald Trump. It’s with Nikki Haley.”
(Click to view)
(Via: Getty Images)
Curiously, that exact sentiment was shared with us by a former SCGOP operative.
“She’s conflicted internally,” the source told us. “No real beliefs. Lonely.”
Interesting … and certainly not unique among politicians lacking core convictions who attempt to follow the political philosophy of French politician Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin.
“There go the people,” Ledru-Rollin is credited as saying. “I must follow them, for I am their leader.”
Alberta’s piece includes zingers from former Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former S.C. governor Mark Sanford – both of whom made it abundantly clear they are not fans of the former ambassador.
It also offers up no shortage of descriptors regarding her naked ambition – and the vindictiveness with which she pursues it.
But the real damage to Haley’s prospective presidential bid could come in the form of the quotes she offered up herself …
Specifically, we are referring to remarks about Trump which Haley furnished to Alberta in the immediate aftermath of the bloody riot in the U.S. capitol by a mob of mostly Trump supporters on January 6, 2021.
While Haley’s comments certainly were not out of line with what a lot of Republicans were saying at the time, the fact remains they put her distinctly at odds with the prevailing view of a majority of GOP primary voters.
Among the quotes Haley could soon find herself living to regret …
“I think he’s going to find himself further and further isolated.”
“I think he’s lost any sort of political viability he was going to have.”
“He’s not going to run for federal office again.”
“I don’t think he’s going to be in the picture. I don’t think he can. He’s fallen so far.”
“We need to acknowledge he let us down. He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”
Trump remains very much “in the picture.” And with the U.S. Senate unlikely to muster the two-thirds majority necessary to convict him in his second impeachment trial – not only is the former president still eligible to seek the presidency in 2024, he is currently the overwhelming frontrunner to win the GOP nomination should he run.
Obviously, that can change … but when it comes to the GOP electorate, Trump is not at all “isolated.” Nor has he lost “viability.”
In fact, a compelling case could be made Haley is the one on an island – and not just because of her tightrope walk on Trump.
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(Via: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations)
“The RNC donors I’ve spoken with who like her have said unequivocally that she is not their candidate (same ones who used to say she was),” one Haley backer told us recently. “The difference is the landscape. They say she has been overcome by time, events, and fresher talent.”
The backer specifically referenced South Dakota governor Kristi Noem – who we profiled last spring – as an example of such “fresher talent.”
“They think there are more women to choose from with each passing day making the identity politics that once would have helped her less important,” Haley’s supporter said.
More importantly, compelling majorities of GOP voters still support him unswervingly … and will view the quotes included in the Politico piece as evidence of her lack of support for the “America First” populism which fueled Trump’s rise.
In fact, damaging headlines based on the quotes included in Alberta’s story are already cropping up – like this one in The Hill.
“She’s headed for a last-place finish in the state she used to govern,” one South Carolina political operative told us, referring to the upcoming 2024 “First in the South” presidential primary.
We wouldn’t go that far, but these quotes certainly demonstrated wishful thinking on Haley’s part. More importantly, they are evidence of an unforced lapse in political judgment – which the 49-year-old politician has spent several weeks trying to walk back as the sense of the GOP base following the riots became clear.
According to Alberta’s social media, he spent six months on the Haley story – his final piece as chief political correspondent for Politico before he assumes his new role as a feature writer for The Atlantic.
The Atlantic, of course, is a left-leaning progressive mouthpiece that has churched out a steady stream of anti-Trump propaganda from “journalists” such as McKay Coppins.
Anyway, while we were impressed by Alberta’s work (and told him so) not everyone liked his coverage.
“This is a wild disorganized mess of an article and it’s mostly not her fault,” our intrepid D.C. Operative wrote in an email. “Alberta is a college newspaper-level reporter. However, it’s clear to me Haley is furious at the prospect of Trump running again and ruining her shot. Not that anyone giving holiday-time exclusives to #NeverTrump reporters at the Kiawah Club during a global pandemic, lockdowns and economic collapse has much of a shot anyway.”
As for his take on the fundamental theme of the article, the operative was no less sparing in his rebuke.
“He strung together quotes from a bunch of interviews over time and instead of concluding she’s an unprincipled weasel, which is the real story, he’s trying to suck up to her and bash Trump,” he concluded. “It’s not going to work out for him.”
Actually, it will probably work out quite well for him at The Atlantic – where Trump-bashing is obviously rewarded. The real question, though, is whether it will work out for Haley with GOP primary voters by the time the 2024 campaign rolls around.
What do you think? Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our always-engaging comments section below …
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