February 26, 2024

Nikki Haley as a third party candidate

The establishment strategy and tactics are going to change. Nikki Haley got absolutely trounced in her home state of South Carolina in the 2024 GOP primary.  She has no path to victory.  So why does she keep running? The common theories are that she's delusional, or that she's staying in the race to secure a VP spot, or as a fallback in case president Trump is forced out for legal reasons, OR she's in it to hurt Trump's chances of winning because she's an establishment puppet.  This morning I had another thought.  What if the latter theory is true, and she wants to hurt Trump?  What is the best way to do that?  

It's not going to cut it with her staying in the race and losing state after state. She's not hurting Trump much at all.  Her support is coming from establishment Republicans and crossover primary voters (Democrats) who want to see anybody but Trump win. Firstly take a look at a few clips as the premise for my thinking.

1. Trump is doing everything right and it's no contest at this point:

Keep in mind that ABC is cherry picking to try to find how this is not good news for Trump when they talk about the electability of Trump after a possible conviction of a crime.  Keep that 36% in mind.

2. MSNBC exit polls tell an interesting story:

Yes, it's MSNBC, and yes it's just exit polls (and early ones at that), but there are still some takeaways that add context to the of the ABC report.  Firstly 31% non-Republicans voted. That could, and probably does account for the largest chunk of that 36% mentioned in the ABC exit polls about a Trump conviction.  Not all, but probably the majority.

Secondly, this means for Nikki Haley, is she does not have a shot among Republicans, who will always represent the vast majority of voters among the remaining primaries.  In some cases, they represent the entire primary electorate.   It means she CANNOT win the GOP nomination. But yet she persists, hence all the theories as to why she is staying in the race.

3. Her establishment financial support is also slipping away now too:

This makes her GOP primary win even more impossible (if that's even a thing). So what next? She's still not dropping out, and people like the Koch brothers are backing away because they are wasting money at this point.  Her strategy will have to change, and her tactics will have to also as a result of the strategy shift as well.

No matter the scenario that proves out to be the reason she is staying in the race, the following holds true: she would do better as a third party candidate.  Let's take a look at the possibilities.

She's delusional: If she believes she can win the GOP nomination, she is delusional. She has no path. But she's gotten pretty far politically prior to her run for president this cycle, and that doesn't happen because of delusions of grandeur.  I don't believe she's delusional, she has an agenda. That agenda may be to become president but we cannot pretend she doesn't understand the polls. But to entertain the notion, if she truly just wants to win the presidency, doing it as a GOP candidate is not her path.  An easier approach would be to run as a third party candidate and take the voters from both Trump and Let's Go Brandon with whom she believes she has a connection and can secure enough votes.

The VP slot: She's not really in it to secure a VP slot.  Trump has already intimated that she's not on the list. It's another scenario I'd simply rule out.

The fallback candidate: She does not represent the logical fallback candidate just because she was the last opponent standing. Loss after loss does not inspire confidence. She is hurting her chances in that scenario.  Instead going third party and trying to stand on her ideas seems more like the high road.  If for some (highly unlikely) reason Trump cannot serve as the Republican nominee, being called back in from an independent run seems far more positive and perhaps even gracious; stepping in to rescue the party from it's own flawed electoral 'mistake'.

The Establishment puppet: This scenario, to me, makes the most sense.  The GOP establishment and the establishment writ large, want to hurt Trump; they want to stop Trump by hurting him, constantly. Death by a thousand cuts if necessary. Keep hitting Trump with criminal cases, civil cases, a primary challenger, and whatever else they can throw in his way, so that (i) he cannot focus on his campaign, (ii) they find something that sticks and forces him to bow out and/or (iii) turns off his voter base. In that case having Nikki Haley in the reason is just one more speed bump for Trump. 

But it hasn't been working; Trump's support continues to grow (or at least, not falter) with each roadblock they attempt. Despite his focus being split his campaign seems to be humming along just fine. And with each case crumbling, finding something to stick on Trump seems to be not only falling further out of reach, it's making the establishment look more and more desperate, more and more suspicious and galvanizing support for Trump.  It's all a failure, which is why you are seeing the Koch money pull out.  The strategy has to change.

It won't make Nikki Haley president but that's not the establishment goal. The goal is to stop Trump. A third party run might do to Trump what the RFK Jr. run does to Let's Go Brandon; siphon off enough votes to make a difference. And the Koch money for Haley pulling out of the GOP primaries might be the signal to her to switch strategies.

To be clear, it's not likely to stop the Trump train, but the establishment is running out of options at this point. They may end up trying to ditch Let's Go Brandon as their last play, and if they do it's a sign of desperation. If they do though, it's also a clear sign the GOP establishment and the Democrat establishment are the same establishment, or at a minimum, they have almost identical agendas.  And that goes well beyond president Trump.

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