Nikki Haley and Marco Rubio Slap Fight, and It's Why the GOP Has Problems

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Nikki Haley has her eyes set on 2024, and she’s getting an early start at alienating other Republicans. Obviously, she did the most damage to her future ambitions by going hard at Donald Trump in an inexplicable interview with Tim Alberta of Politico. It’s inexplicable because even if you want to take a shot at the former president, you don’t do it by giving an interview to a left-wing dumpster fire of a news outlet. There’s nothing Republican voters dislike more than pandering to the liberal media, and Haley has already failed her first big test in that area.

Haley wasn’t done, though. More recently, she took a shot at Marco Rubio, describing his policy wants as “socialism lite.” This per Real Clear Politics.

To Nikki Haley, Rubio is worse. In what was seen as a veiled shot, the former Southern Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador — and presumed 2024 presidential hopeful — dismissed his proposed common-good capitalism as “hyphenated capitalism.” That, she said, “is no capitalism at all. The better name for it is socialism lite.”

What a brilliant argument by Haley. I mean, as long as you throw out a conservative buzzword like socialism, then what else is there to even really discuss?

And that’s really been the problem for the modern GOP going back well before Donald Trump came down the escalator. Yes, GOP voters oppose socialism, but it’s not enough anymore to just play right-wing mad libs. People want real solutions to real problems, whether we are talking about the job market, opioid crisis, healthcare costs, or illegal immigration. Articulating ways to approach those issues without violating core principles is difficult, but not impossible. It’s not a job that can be skipped over by repeating political rhetoric fit for 2005.

Rubio responded with the right answer, in my opinion, calling Haley’s argument lazy.

The son of Cuban exiles bristles when asked about the Haley-hyphenation. He welcomes debate but not that barb. He called it a “lazy argument,” adding, “I’m not somebody that needs to be lectured on socialism.

“I live in a community, surrounded by people constantly who had their lives destroyed by it,” he continued, referencing the Cuban Americans in Florida who fled communism and make up his most loyal constituency. “This is not socialism,” he said of his policy vision, “or anything remotely close to it.”

Yet, even assuming Haley’s jab was factually prudent, a contention that I believe is unfair to Rubio’s actual policy concerns, it’s certainly not timely. It’s the beginning of 2021, and the race for 2024 won’t really begin until midway through 2023. This is the time to build bridges and build a solid base of support, not to take jabs at your perceived opponents. It’s not that such candidate on candidate warfare isn’t necessary, but it’s way too early, and Haley doesn’t have the following to go scorched earth. In fact, her presidential run may already be over, but if she wants to rebound, she’d do much better to bide her time and wait for the right moment to start taking pot shots at opponents. That right moment is years from now.

Whoever is advising Haley the last few months isn’t doing a very good job. She already had serious challenges ahead, but she seems determined to make the path even more difficult. She, and the GOP as a whole, have to do better at messaging than this going forward.