Nikki Haley Picks a Risky Lane as She Prepares to Formally Announce Her 2024 Presidential Candidacy

Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under then-President Donald Trump and former South Carolina governor, is expected to officially announce her 2024 presidential candidacy on Wednesday, Feb. 15, in Charleston, according to two South Carolina Republicans familiar with her plans.

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Haley will become the first Republican to announce a White House run after Trump’s announcement on November 15, 2022, in an hour-long speech at Mar-a-Lago.

Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis waits in the wings. Any way you slice it, the Republican primary season is going to make the 2016 GOP primaries look like a Sunday walk in the park.

Challenging Trump on anything is a sobering prospect for the faint of heart, given the former president’s wont for burning challengers to the ground. That said, Haley’s strong performances in United Nations Security Council proved she’s likely up to the task, and she’s smart enough to know what’s coming from her former boss. The problem for Haley is would be DeSantis, but we’ll get the Florida governor in a bit.

The first reality is this: Love him, loathe him, or indifferent, Donald Trump is still the Republican King of the Hill until and if someone knocks him off his throne. If a 2024 challenger is able to accomplish the job, he or she must differentiate himself or herself from Trump, which is generally true in any election when running against a frontrunner. Running on the same issues in the same way as the frontrunner doesn’t give voters a reason to vote for the challenger. Unless they’ve had enough of the king, that is.

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With that reality in mind, Haley has chosen a different lane than Trump’s, and a risky lane at that.

As reported by The Hill, Katon Dawson, a former chair of the South Carolina Republican Party who’s backing Haley, laid it out thusly:

Nikki’s had some tough races, and she’s used to running against the gold standard. There’s a lane in there for an anti-Trump. There’s a lane in there to be successful. And I think there’s a lane in there for Nikki Haley. She’s always been able to deliver a message and raise the money to have it heard.

Dawson’s observation was mostly correct, but that said, Haley’s never run against a “gold standard” like Ron DeSantis, and she’s sure as hell never run against Donald Trump. Speaking of whom, the former president earlier this month taunted his former UN ambassador in a Truth Social post of a video clip of her saying that she wouldn’t challenge him after preliminary news of her announcement broke, and above the video, he wrote:

Nikki has to follow her heart, not her honor. She should definitely run!

The operative word here is “honor.” 

When I first read the Truth Social post, I thought for a nanosecond that Trump might have been gracious. Until the honor jab nonsense. Needless to say, I was reminded of his scathing attack on “Ron DeSanctimonious” for his “disloyalty” after the former president — he claimed — brought the Florida governor back from the “dead.” Never mind that DeSantis blistered Democrat Charlie Crist by double digits in 2022 to win re-election.

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And there will likely be another formidable opponent for Haley in the 2024 GOP race: fellow South Carolinian, Sen. Tim Scott.

Danielle Vinson, a professor of politics and international affairs at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., weighed in on a possible face-off between the two:

I think Nikki Haley and Tim Scott will be vying for the same set of voters in a lot of ways. Both of them are less volatile than the Trump-DeSantis sort of candidates. They’re much more diplomatic, polite people — both of them. I think they’d be competing primarily for those folks that were not happy with the drama of the Trump years [who] want to do something besides just fight culture wars.

Conversely, DeSantis has built a national reputation by fearlessly going after everyone from federal health officials to the liberal lapdog media to the “woke,” and of course the Disney Corp. As reported by The Hill, one prominent Republican strategist who’s supporting Haley’s presidential bid conceded it might be difficult for her to stand out in the GOP primaries.

She’s somebody that wants to study and understand an issue. She’s not really flashy like some of the others. And look, for me, I love that about her. But I still think there’s the question of how to break through when there are people like Trump and DeSantis sucking up all the oxygen in the room.

This brings us to the most important issue — in my not-so-humble opinion, at least.

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While I’m in general agreement with most of the above quotes, I can’t see Haley winning the 2024 nomination. That said, she’d be a wise choice for the VP slot if DeSantis is able to oust Trump. The contrast between the two would be effective, and in 21st-century America, intentionally choosing a woman or person of color would take away that issue from the hypocritical Democrats.

However, if Trump prevails, Haley — like all other potential 2024 candidates “disloyal” to Trump — will have been burned to the ground along the way. Skewer away, those so inclined, but mark my words.

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