Troubles, mistakes and problems that sunk Nikki Haley's candidacy

In the end he gave up. Overwhelmed by Donald Trump on Super Tuesday, Nikki Haley announced yesterday the suspension of his election campaign. “In all likelihood, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee when our party convention convenes in July. I congratulate him and wish him well. I wish well to anyone who wants to become president of America,” said the former ambassador, who however did not endorse her rival. “It is now up to Donald Trump gain the votes of those, in our party and outside it, who did not support him. And I hope he does,” she added.

The farewell of Haley at the race it wasn't something too unexpected. As already mentioned, the former ambassador had recorded a very poor performance on Super Tuesday, limiting herself to winning just one state out of fourteen: Vermont. That same Vermont which offered only seventeen Republican delegates and which, at the level of presidential elections, has voted uninterruptedly for the Dems since 1992. It is clear that this victory was essentially irrelevant, even more so in light of the fact that, again on Tuesday, Trump he disconnected the Haley by almost thirty points in Virginia: a crucial state on which the former ambassador had bet heavily.

More generally, until Super Tuesday, the Haley she had only won the primaries of Washington DC, being defeated in all the other electoral appointments, including the primaries of South Carolina: her home state, of which she was also governor from 2011 to 2017. And right here, arriving around twenty points behind Trumpthe former ambassador had perhaps experienced the most bitter debacle, so much so that she ended up abandoned by the powerful network of financiers gravitating around the billionaire Charles Koch. The mathematics of the delegates had then become untenable for the Haley. After Super Tuesday, Trump had risen to 995 compared to the former ambassador's 89: a significant gap, also considering the fact that the quorum for the nominations Republican is set at 1,215. It is clear how all these factors weighed on the choice of Haley to take a step back.

But why did his campaign never really take off? Certain, Trump he has always maintained his position as frontrunner, without neglecting the fact that, since he was first indicted on March 30 last year, he has seen his support among Republican voters grow significantly (gaining around thirty points in less than twelve months). Furthermore, the Haley was also crippled by the fact that the campaign of Joe Biden reiterated his criticisms of the same Trump. In all of this, the former ambassador made various mistakes. She focused a lot on international politics, when it is known that primary voters – both Republicans and Dems – prefer domestic political issues. Another very serious mistake was made by her at the beginning of January, when – a few days before the Iowa caucus – she came out saying that the voters of New Hampshire would “correct” the vote of those of Iowa itself: words that irritated the voters locals and which probably contributed to her losing the opportunity to finish second in Iowa. A blow, that of her, which was fatal. If she had won the silver medal at that caucus, maybe the Haley she would have managed to give more momentum to her campaign, obtaining better results in both New Hampshire and South Carolina. A further mistake was to completely and explicitly snub Nevada with the result of arriving on site in second place behind the “none of these candidates” option: a burning humiliation that attracted derision from both Trump that of the campaign Biden.

Yet the problem of Haley it was not only that of the (often difficult to understand) errors committed at an operational and strategic level during the campaign. The former ambassador also suffered from structural weaknesses. To understand this, you need to take a step back. Today, a certain vulgate paints the Haley as a moderate, establishment Republican who would like to safeguard the GOP's Reaganite legacy against the populism of Trump. Yet things are not exactly like that. There Haley it has a rather chameleonic political history. In 2016, she spoke out against it Trumpsupporting the presidential candidacy of Marco Rubio. Then, once the tycoon became president, she agreed to join his administration as ambassador to the UN: a position from which she announced her resignation in October 2018, probably betting on a GOP defeat in the mid-term elections in that year. There Haley in fact he hoped to use a similar scenario to contend with Trump there nominations Republican in 2020. Unfortunately for her, the GOP did better than expected in 2018 and tied with the Democrats, maintaining control of the Senate. This blocked the ambitions of the Haley who realigned himself with the then Republican president, so much so that – during the 2020 elections – he campaigned vigorously in his favor. The situation changed again when Trump lost the presidential elections. First there Haley criticized him in connection with the Capitol break-in. Then, in April 2021, she returned to his ally, ensuring that she would not run in the 2024 primaries if the former president decided to run again. Yet, in February 2023, more than two months after the tycoon's re-nomination, the former ambassador took to the field to challenge him for the nominations republican.

Well, this chameleonism was precisely the problem. A political issue, not a moral one. By acting in this way, the Haley has alienated not only the Trumpist base but also that part of the Republican establishment which, now increasingly a minority, has no sympathy for the former president at all: let's not forget that, in recent years, the Haley he has repeatedly resorted to an anti-establishment rhetoric that is not so distant from Trumpian rhetoric. Which makes it a substantially different figure from that of a John McCain or a Mitt Romney: Old guard Republicans who have consistently opposed Trump.

In short, the former ambassador found herself effectively isolated within the GOP. A structural weakness that had a negative impact on her campaign. Many of the votes she took especially after the retirement of Ron DeSantis there are not so many votes for her as such: the former ambassador acted as a catalyst for a world that wanted an alternative to Trump but he couldn't find any other options. This does not mean that the now former candidate did not have a following at all: if anything, it means that that following was only a part (perhaps not even a majority) of the overall votes that she obtained. Without neglecting the strong suspicion that, in the states where open primaries were held, the former ambassador also received votes from Dem voters. She was NBC News to reveal that, a few days before the primaries in South Carolina, the Super Pac of Haley she had sent emails to the Dems to convince them to vote for her.

And here we come to a crucial issue. According to some analysts, the votes of Haley they would certify the weakness of Trump, in addition to the fact that in several key states around 30% of Republican voters would be ready to turn their backs on the former president next November. However, this is a specious analysis. Net of possible and not unlikely dem infiltrations, the voters of the Haley they are not a homogeneous block. Among them there are certainly anti-Trumpist Republicans who will never vote for the former president, but – at the same time – there are also Republicans for whom loyalty to the GOP comes before antipathy towards Trump. Despite Biden is already trying to court the former ambassador's base, it is difficult to imagine that that base will divert its vote en masse (or even just a majority) to the Democratic Party in November.

And now what can we expect for the future? At least for now, it seems unlikely that the Haley she will run as an independent: during the announcement of her farewell, she defined herself as a “conservative republican”. Three scenarios are then possible. First: sooner or later you will give the endorsement to Trump and will negotiate a possible entry into the presidential ticket as vice candidate. Second: you will limit yourself to dragging your feet, betting on the defeat of the former president in November to reappear in 2028. Third: you will start a branch to internally put a spanner in the works of your rival. We'll see what happens in the next few months. For now, the only certain thing is that the candidacy of Haley has been misunderstood by many.