After Crushing Defeat In Her Home State, What's Next For Nikki Haley?

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After Crushing Defeat In Her Home State, What's Next For Nikki Haley?

Nikki Haley campaigning in South Carolina

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley got clobbered by Donald Trump Saturday in her home state of South Carolina, just as everyone predicted.

Haley's candidacy has already lasted longer than most election analysts predicted and certainly longer than Trump would like. Here's a look at what comes next.

1. Does Haley have a path to winning the nomination?

No. There's no world in which Haley manages to match, much less surpass, Trump's delegate count given the makeup of today's Republican Party.

Even in the event of Trump choking on the proverbial cheeseburger, Haley would face incredibly steep odds in brokering a convention deal among a bunch of delegates whose worship of Trump is complete and total. Such a convention showdown would be an awesome spectacle, but those delegates would almost surely vote for someone in Trump's mold, or maybe even anointed by him. That person will not be Haley.

2. Why is Haley still running?

It seems increasingly clear, based on the sharpness of her attacks on Trump, that Haley is trying to build a brand for the future, perhaps including a 2028 presidential bid. If Trump loses, Haley can say, “I told you so.” And at a spry 52 years of age, she can start laying the groundwork for her next political act, whether it's as part of the Republican Party or some other party that arises out of the GOP's wreckage.

3. Does Haley have a better shot on Super Tuesday than she did in South Carolina?

Yes. In spite of Haley's experience serving as governor of South Carolina, it remains a deeply conservative state with a relatively low level of college-educated voters. Haley's advisers have noted that 11 of the 16 contests taking place on Super Tuesday will be open or semi-open primaries that will inevitably include more voters receptive to Haley's insurgent pitch. The electorate in several of those states also boasts a greater concentration of the college-educated voters who have fueled Haley's campaign thus far. States that include some type of open primary coupled with a highly educated electorate, such as Massachusetts and Virginia, will be Haley’s sweet spot. She may not win them, but she will likely fare better there than in the Palmetto State.

4. Any chance Haley will be Trump's running mate?

Highly doubtful. Trump wants a running mate who will lie like a rug for him and trample the Constitution if that's what it takes to keep him in power. He doesn't want another Mike Pence fiasco. Plenty of malleable candidates have already stepped forward to demonstrate their bootlicking cred, including House Republicans' number three, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, and former 2024 hopeful-turned-Trump backer Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

5. Will Haley eventually fall in line on Trump?

Perhaps. But with each passing day, Haley's attacks on Trump get more pointed and trenchant, making it harder for her to walk that plank when she calls it quits.

During this week’s press conference on the state of the race, Haley said of Trump, "I feel no need to kiss the ring. I have no fear of Trump’s retribution. I’m not looking for anything from him."

If Haley is really building a brand for the future, she might think twice before endorsing a man she has repeatedly called "unstable and unhinged." In fact, Haley has finally hit her messaging stride because she sounds authentic, as if she is being true to herself and her own beliefs rather than hedging her bets in a party where she no longer belongs.

So it's just possible, if not exactly probable, that Haley declines to endorse Trump when she inevitably ends her bid.

If Trump wins the general election, however, Haley could very likely come crawling back in search of an administration position. There's nothing Trump relishes more than a contrite convert.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

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