Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley officially launched her 2024 presidential candidacy in her home state on Wednesday, cheerleading for a new generation of American exceptionalism rooted in outdated imperialist dogma and an opportunistic identity-politik shtick.
Oh, and don’t forget those high heels … which Haley has repeatedly stated are for “kicking,” not for making a fashion statement.
Will any of this campy conventional politicking translate into relevance on the national stage? Or has Haley’s ideological cocktail arrived a decade too late at a “Republican” party which – while clearly souring on former U.S. president Donald Trump – isn’t quite ready to repudiate the anti-establishment populism he has unleashed?
“I stand before you as the daughter of immigrants, as a proud wife of a combat veteran and as the mom of two amazing children,” Haley told a crowd of supporters in Charleston, S.C. “I’ve served as governor of the great state of South Carolina and as America’s ambassador to the United Nations. And above all else, I’m a grateful American citizen who knows our best days are yet to come, if we unite and fight to save our country. I have devoted my life to this fight. And I’m just getting started. For a strong America, for a proud America, I am running for President of the United States of America.”
Haley channeled Cold Warriors from decades past as she pitched her version of “morning in America,” vowing to eradicate socialism at home and abroad while placing communist China on the “ash heap of history.”
“It is unthinkable that Americans would look at the sky and see a Chinese spy balloon looking back at us,” Haley said, referring to the purported espionage inflatable shot down off the coast of her home state earlier this month.
Foreign policy bombast aside, though, what is Haley’s calling card?
Apparently that she’s young … or young-ish. Part of a “new generation” of American leaders.
“I have always had a deep belief in America,” the 51-year-old Bamberg, S.C. native said. “But I know America is better than all of the division and distractions that we have today. And I’m confident that the American people agree. We’re ready. Ready to move past the stale ideas and faded names of the past. And we are more than ready for a new generation to lead us into the future.”
“My purpose is to save our country from the downward spiral of socialism and defeatism,” Haley added. “I aim to move America upward, toward freedom and strength.”
The problem with Haley’s pitch (aside from its over-reliance on soundbites and under-reliance on substance) is that she doesn’t appear to be the candidate ideally positioned to capitalize on this generational shift moving her party past those “faded names.”
As of right now, that (prospective) candidate would be Florida governor Ron DeSantis – a 2024 contender whose support amongst GOP voters nationally (and in South Carolina) dwarfs the backing Haley is currently receiving.
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Lowry added, “the mood in the GOP is not primed for conventional politics, which many Republicans will consider overly timid and not attuned to the urgency of the moment.”
Others put it more bluntly …
“No one is asking for what she’s selling,” Longwell continued, adding that “Haley’s fundamental weakness is that she doesn’t seem to know who or what she wants to be.”
Well … other than to be president.
Is a move to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue realistically in Haley’s future? Early reviews are not optimistic.
“When a new fighter enters the arena to go up against a legend, the crowd braces for a good show,” an editorial in The Economist observed. “But if the matchup is too lopsided the brawl is no fun.”
According to the editorial, “weightier contenders have been limbering up” to challenge Trump.
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As previously noted, Haley’s decision to run against her former boss is an about-face from her prior proclamations.
Asked point blank by Kinnard whether she would support another Trump presidential bid, Haley responded “yes.”
This now-broken promise was issued just months after Haley blistered Trump following the January 2021 rioting at the U.S. Capitol – one of many weathervane moments for the mercurial politician.
For now, Haley’s entry in the race actually helps Trump. As I noted last week, the former president goes from narrowly trailing DeSantis to narrowly leading him with her in the race.
While Haley’s early reviews were far from positive, I would caution anyone from being too dismissive of her naked ambition …
“I have taken a dim view of Haley over the years, but I have never – and would never – write her off,” I noted last summer. “Her identitypolitik, financial backing and neocon support are a potent cocktail at the national level – one which has kept her in the mix despite multiple unforced errors and an underlying lack of consistency.”
Obviously, this author has quite the history with Haley – but that hasn’t stopped me from objectively assessing her ascendancy on the national stage. Nor will it.
“Commentators who rely on anything less than their best judgment and their most compelling arguments – or who inconsistently apply these to the subjects they cover – won’t keep their audiences very long,” I noted in a column on Haley two months ago. “Nor will they maintain the respect of their audiences very long.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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