Will Trump Defy MAGA-world for Nikki Haley?

December 19, 2023 Topic: 2024 Election Region: United States Blog Brand: Jacob Heilbrunn Tags: Donald TrumpNikki Haley2024 Election

Will Trump Defy MAGA-world for Nikki Haley?

With Haley’s polls rising in New Hampshire, could Trump tap her for his 2024 ticket?

Is Nikki Haley running for the presidency—or Donald J. Trump’s vice president? Former speaker Kevin McCarthy says she’d be right for the job. Although Trump himself deemed the prospect “unlikely,” this is a significant shift from his previous position, ruling out Republican competitors. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis now suggests that her goal is to become Trump’s No. 2. His campaign even created a website called trumpnikki2024.com, complete with the sarcastic logo “Make the Establishment Great Again.” 

DeSantis observed, “She will not answer directly—and she owes you an answer to this—will she accept a vice presidential nomination from Donald Trump? Yes or no. I can tell you, under any circumstances, I will not accept that because that’s not why I’m running. I’m running for the nomination and to be president.”

For her part, Haley is having none of it. “It’s not even a conversation, and it doesn’t matter what candidate wants me to answer it: I don’t play for second,” Haley declared in Iowa. “I don’t know what more I can say than to get them to understand that.”

When Haley launched her campaign, The Federalist warned that she would have to prove that her days of espousing military adventurism were behind her. The prospect of Haley as Trump’s understudy has sent a good deal of MAGA world into transports of rage. Tucker Carlson has called her “poison.” He fired a warning shot, declaring, “I would not only not vote for that ticket, I would advocate against it as strongly as I could.” Then there is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has also been touted as a possible VP pick. “MAGA would revolt if Nikki Haley were to even be given an internship in Trump’s next administration,” Greene announced.

Though she served Trump as his UN ambassador, Haley personifies pretty much everything that Trump’s acolytes despise about the GOP’s establishment foreign policy wing. She is a neoconservative in all but name—a fervent supporter of the war in Ukraine and a champion of American global leadership.

For now, Haley, who won the support of the Koch network and whom the latest polls suggest is gaining ground on Trump in New Hampshire, will continue to bat away nettlesome questions about her receptivity to joining Team Trump as vice president. Trump’s own prospects rest on his ability to present his primary as a kind of coronation rather than a competitive contest. A strong showing by Haley might puncture the nimbus of inevitability that he is seeking to project. The battle between the two wings of the GOP would be joined. Indeed, as the American Conservative’s Curt Mills told me, “The showdown after the New Hampshire primary will represent the zenith of the old guard neoconservatives and Trump’s buccaneering new wing.”

Still, the ideologically protean Trump, a Republican of recent vintage, might find it tempting to reach out to Haley, much as Ronald Reagan tapped George H.W. Bush, who won the primary in Iowa in 1980 and ridiculed his embrace of supply-side economics as “voodoo economics.” Mills regards it as a longshot but observes, “Trump-Haley has a superficial appeal for suburban moms but would be a poisoned chalice because it would greatly demoralize Trump’s core constituency.” No one in Trump’s base, after all, is showing up to vote for a vice-president Nikki Haley.

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 in 2024.

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