Nearly a year ago, we published an editorial headlining Nikki Haley and acknowledging that she could be a formidable player in 2024. Today, as the lone Republican remaining in the race other than former President Donald Trump, she can legitimately claim that she outsmarted 13 other opponents. That accomplishment alone could merit the "formidable" epithet we gave her.
But Haley has strayed so much from conservative orthodoxy since our editorial that she has become the latest Liz Cheney, the former Wyoming Congresswoman who aimed to become a media rockstar by excessively indulging her TDS instincts and eschewing her own party back home.
Like Cheney, Haley casts electoral losses as victories by defining success on her terms. At a political rally in North Charleston, S.C., she attacked Trump's supposed reaction to her performance.
And then Donald Trump got out there and just threw a temper tantrum. He pitched a fit. He was insulting. He was doing what he does. But I know that's what he does when he's insecure. I know that's what he does when he is threatened. And he should feel threatened without a doubt.
Threatened. Really? In Iowa, Haley came in third, behind DeSantis and Trump. The former president won a majority of the votes and 98 of 99 counties despite not aggressively campaigning in the state.
In New Hampshire, Chris Christie, another Trump antagonist, dropped out before he could be humiliated, presumably sending his Never Trumper voters to Haley. [Christie did not endorse Haley]. When DeSantis dropped out also to save face, CNN predicted that 40% of his supporters broke for Haley. Entrance polls showed that nearly 75% of Haley's voters had not registered as Republican. Still, Haley came in second to Trump, who got over 54% of the vote, again a majority of support. Trump also became the first Republican to win both Iowa and New Hampshire in the modern primary era, dating back to 1976.
South Carolina, her home state, votes next. Attempting to lower expectations, Haley, who has frequented the top Sunday morning news shows with clock-like regularity, told NBC's Meet The Press that she doesn't have to win her home state to win.
"We've got 17 delegates – he's got 32. I'd say that's pretty good to start," Haley said. "What I do think I need to do is I need to show that I'm building momentum. I need to show that I'm stronger in South Carolina than in New Hampshire. "Does that have to be a win? I don't think that necessarily has to be a win."
Haley won 43% of the vote in New Hampshire. South Carolina polls have been limited, but the latest RealClearPolitics average has Trump leading Haley by 30 points with DeSantis in the race. If CNN's ratio holds, Trump could top 60% of the vote in the Palmetto State, delivering a 20-point victory. Such a margin looks even more likely because the state's entire Congressional delegation, the governor and Haley's own lieutenant governor when she was governor, state legislators, and senior party officials have all endorsed Trump.
It would mean Haley's vote share would be less than her New Hampshire win. In her own words, she would have lost - but don't expect her to acknowledge it. She would probably be back on another Sunday show, spinning away her loss. Even if Haley wins more than 43%, how can it be a win if more than 50% of voters from her own state don't want her to represent them at the GOP convention?
Liz Cheney rode the pinnacle of Beltway power by hewing closely to her Uniparty colleagues and professing a disdain for Trump unseen in modern times. Cheney accepted the role of Vice Chair of the partisan J6 Committee and, helped by unlimited support from Nancy Pelosi and crew, she prosecuted a one-sided tirade against Trump, using all the levers of Congressional power. She was so brazen in her hatred that the media gladly picked her up on their roller coaster and took her to the top.
But media darlings also have to face the electorate. In the Wyoming GOP primary in 2022, Cheney was trounced by an unknown rookie, with over 70% of voters choosing someone else. So remarkable was the thrashing that Cheney had to retire from politics at the end of her congressional term.
Before the GOP 2024 campaign started, Haley promised she wouldn't run if Trump ran. She violated that oath, but voters tolerated her because she was competing in a laboratory of ideas. Besides, Haley had several firsts to her political record as a two-term South Carolina governor. She had appointed Tim Scott, the first-ever Black man, to the Senate long before DEI became the mantra of the media and the Left.
And long before George Floyd, Haley proved she was an astute GOP politician who could attract Black votes. In 2015, Haley signed a measure to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol after it had flown for 54 years. South Carolina's senior senator, Lindsey Graham, then famously said: "After the horrific tragedy in Charleston, our state could have gone down one of two paths, division or reconciliation. I am thankful we chose the path of reconciliation." It is an irony that both Graham and Scott are endorsing Trump.
Haley strayed as she failed to get a purchase in the initial debate contests. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy constantly got under her skin and did not deserve to be branded “scum” by her. In a crowded field, she could come up with clever one-liners. Still, it became clear that philosophically, Haley was more aligned with the Beltway and the Military Industrial Complex than the America First movement. She struggled to defend her generous pay package working for Boeing - while advocating for more military spending for Ukraine. The Never Trumper and TDS deep pockets saw a shrewd female politician who could change colors like a chameleon if doing so helped her. And they recruited her, just like they did Liz Cheney.
The disloyal Haley also devolved into a poor role model. She looked and behaved as though she had a chip on her shoulder, like a Republican avatar of Hillary Clinton. She bit the same hand that had lifted her by resorting to low-blow cheap shots at Trump, proving that she is the quintessential persona non grata in politics. Her mean attacks were so overboard that she disqualified herself to serve in a future Trump administration.
Haley is basking under the klieg lights and enjoying the attention. If Cheney's experience is an indication, Haley's fame and future political career will be short-lived. South Carolinians brought her global fame. Now they will probably take it all back.