Donald Trump-Nikki Haley 2024: Why It Could Still Happen

Donald Trump-Nikki Haley 2024: Why It Could Still Happen

The truth is that Nikki Haley might be holding out for the vice presidency. The bargain could be that she ends her campaign in exchange for Donald Trump naming her his vice-president right now. It would have an upside for each of them.

Nikki Haley isn’t going anywhere. After losing to Donald Trump in New Hampshire, she’s made it clear that her campaign isn’t ending. It’s just getting started.

Or is it?

The truth is that Haley might be holding out for the vice presidency. The bargain could be that she ends her campaign in exchange for Trump naming her his vice president right now. It would have an upside for each of them.

Nikki Haley Could be Trump’s George H.W. Bush 

Even as Tim Scott and others hold Trump’s coattails, it’s Haley who possesses the most potential pizazz. Trump may mock her, as he did last night in New Hampshire, but (in theory) Haley could help unify the party, much as Ronald Reagan’s selection of George H.W. Bush did in 1980 when Bush mocked him for espousing “voodoo economics.” For all his talk of retribution and revenge, Trump is a master of letting bygones be bygones. He’s an opportunist who seldom lets an opportunity elude him.

If Haley is not angling to become vice-president, however, she may be reckoning that Trump is going to get tripped up by his legal difficulties. Trump would have to be the Houdini of the legal system to avoid getting nailed on one of the ninety-one counts that have been lodged against him. Maybe he’ll get away scot-free. But the odds are against him.

Add in the fact that the new conventional wisdom is that Trump’s performance in New Hampshire was less than dominating, and you have a recipe for Haley going to the finish line. There really is no cogent reason for Haley to wave the white flag of surrender. She can become the repository of the lingering anti-Trump sentiment in the GOP and prepare the ground for 2028. As Mark Leibovich notes in the Atlantic, Haley has learned that trying to pussyfoot around Trump makes no sense. Frontal attacks are what is needed—and what raise her profile. With her playing David to Trump’s Goliath, she is bound to continue to attract favorable media attention.

Can Haley Really Hurt Trump? 

Perhaps the most that Haley will be able to lodge against Trump in coming primaries are pinprick attacks that nettle rather than damage him. But she will prevent Trump from prematurely terminating the primary season and turning to the general election. That in itself will be something of an accomplishment, albeit one that the MAGA base will hold against her for providing what amounts to aid and comfort for Joe Biden, who sailed to victory last night despite not being officially on the ballot in New Hampshire.

But the fact that Haley continues to campaign underscores that Trump does have grievous weaknesses heading into the general election. The antipathy he has aroused among independent voters cannot simply be dismissed. As Politico observed, “Donald Trump has a problem no matter what happens in New Hampshire on Tuesday night: There’s a whole swath of the Republican electorate and a good chunk of independents who appear firmly committed to not voting for him in November if he becomes the nominee.”

Trump is unlikely to swerve. There is no middle ground for Trump. His campaign resembles a team of beaters who seek to drive game out of the bushes. In this instance, Trump is trying to roust potential rural voters who have not previously gone to the polls in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. To accomplish that task, he will need to continue to practice his shock and awe tactics.

Which is why he may recoil at extending any olive branches to Haley. As Sohrab Ahmari noted, “On foreign policy, Haley’s platform is a well-preserved time capsule from circa 2003. If anything, her agenda is more extreme than that of George W. Bush & Co. in their heyday.”

Trump has nowhere to go. As he prepares to confront Biden, Trump may be as much of a prisoner of the MAGA base as the GOP itself.

About the Author

Jacob Heilbrunn is editor of The National Interest and is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. He has written on both foreign and domestic issues for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, Reuters, Washington Monthly, and The Weekly Standard. He has also written for German publications such as Cicero, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Der Tagesspiegel. In 2008, his book They Knew They Were Right: the Rise of the Neocons was published by Doubleday. It was named one of the one hundred notable books of the year by The New York Times. He is the author of America Last: The Right’s Century-Long Romance with Foreign Dictators, coming next month.

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