2020 GOP Presidential Tea Leaves, Part II: Musing about Nikki Haley

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there  😉.

As I indicated in the first part of this note, there may be a basis to suppose that President Trump will ultimately choose not to run for a second term, and if that occurs, there will be a free-for-all for the GOP presidential nomination similar to that now beginning to unfold on the Democratic side.  The challenge faced by any Republican candidate could be more daunting than that faced by a Democratic aspirant, because it might be argued that given Mr. Trump’s legacy, we now have three political parties, not two:  Democrats; and two groups sharing the Republican mantle — the “Reaganites” (“traditional” Republicans) and the “Trumpers” (those drawn to Mr. Trump’s proclaimed nationalism that view America as a homogeneous community with specific cultural mores and maintain a visceral distaste for “political correctness” and mainstream media).  It would seem that any Republican wishing to succeed Mr. Trump will need to gain significant support from both groups.  Since the two groups have fundamental policy and philosophic differences submerged by the Trump tsunami, this will be no small challenge.

The one person coming to mind that has departed the Trump Administration with an enhanced political standing is U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.  A close friend recently told me that he felt that Amb. Haley currently has the best chance to be our first woman President, and it’s hard to disagree.  She’s bright, knowledgeable, articulate, and attractive; she projects both toughness and femininity; she’s had executive experience as a Governor; she’s Indian-American, the child of immigrants; she was born and raised in the South, but as Governor removed the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state grounds; she has established foreign policy bona fides by representing us at the U.N.; she has fiscal policy views that appeal to traditional conservatives; her husband serves in the armed forces, and she has what appears to be a beautiful family; she identifies as Christian, but has a Sikh background; and while with the Administration, she managed to walk the fine line of supporting while sometimes maintaining a position independent of President Trump, who clearly has high regard for her.  In short, a deep and balanced resume of a deft politician with crossover potential.

I would offer that Amb. Haley’s departure from the Administration will enable her to avoid the fallout from the investigations into the Trump campaign and Administration that seem destined to dominate the remainder of the President’s current term.  Although she has pledged not to run against Mr. Trump in 2020, I’d be very surprised if she and her close advisors don’t already have draft plans for a run in 2020 if the President is either driven from office or chooses not to seek re-election.  2020 could be her year, in the way that 1960 belonged to John Kennedy, 1976 to Jimmy Carter, 2008 to Barack Obama, and 2016 to Donald Trump.

If the President doesn’t seek re-election in 2020, other Republican aspirants will obviously emerge.  Vice President Pence is clearly attempting position himself to succeed Mr. Trump, but I find it hard to believe that any voter of any political stripe will be interested in a bootlicker with charisma akin to a damp dishrag.  I admire outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich, but it’s difficult to imagine that he can garner sufficient support from the Trumpers.  Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has perhaps too blatantly waffled as he attempts to keep a foot in both camps, and may have been too indelibly labeled as diminutive by Mr. Trump.  Outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake seems to be viewed as a turncoat by Reaganites and with antipathy by Trumpers.  Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’ transparent antics in preparation for the 2016 election cycle and the way he debased himself before Mr. Trump during the last two years to keep his Senate seat (which, for a red state, he won only narrowly) have made him an anathema to Reaganites while appearing to gain little credence with Trumpers.  Ms. Haley’s odds seem favorable against any of them.

This was simply musing – a handicapping exercise.  While it now feels, based upon her statements at the U.N., that I’m in general alignment with Amb. Haley on most foreign policy issues, she and I have little common ground on domestic issues.  She would nonetheless bring certain attributes to the presidency that, given our current state, I would find helpful.  There would be the possibility that certain taboos might – finally — be laid to rest for additional segments of our populace if those of our people that are “Republicans First” had their woman, their person of color, their person one generation away from immigrants, their person with a flavor of a non-Christian background, in the White House.  If Ms. Haley proved to be generally truthful in the conduct of the presidency (“fudging” is okay — all politicians “fudge” — but President Trump has taken us way beyond “fudging”), governed based upon facts (not alternative facts), showed respect for the press and the First Amendment, and considered those that didn’t agree with her as “adversaries,” not “enemies,” I would, given the toxic environment we now have, consider her a step in the right direction.  (If we could at least regain our footing regarding truth and decency, we could argue about domestic issues in the next election).

I concede that Mr. Trump has dramatically lowered my expectations for the presidency of the United States.

Enough musin’ for now!

2 thoughts on “2020 GOP Presidential Tea Leaves, Part II: Musing about Nikki Haley

  1. I had a gut sense your surprise would be Haley. You articulate the rationale much more clearly than what my gut would have, and I agree there is significant logic to support this. Of course, logic doesn’t seem to play a big role these days. Will you do a similar assessment of democratic candidates?


    1. Hey — Thanks! Not for a while. An awful lot of wannabes are indicating that they wish to test the waters, but we’ll see who jumps in. A key point for me is WHO they are running against. These races seem to me to be about matchups, like sports events. If Trump does run, I would consider the best Democratic matchups against him to be either Biden or Bloomberg — against Trump, their age wouldn’t be a significant issue, they’d have the gravitas to match Trump on the stage, and would have the comforting centrist appeal to tip the independents. Against a Haley, Kasich, or even a Rubio, either could well look too old, too much the past. One reaction I do have (perhaps betraying my own centrist bias): any move sharply left by the Democrats (Sanders, Warren, etc.) will give the GOP an opportunity to keep the presidency if they run a centrist-seeming nominee. We’ll see! Have a great day!


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