DANIEL VAUGHAN: It's Time For Nikki Haley To Drop Out

 December 13, 2023

Tell me if you've heard this before: Chris Christie is banking his entire Presidential run on winning New Hampshire. If it sounds familiar, it's because we've heard about Chris Christie's magical capabilities in New Hampshire since he burst on the national scene in 2010.

Yet that's the conventional wisdom heading into the upcoming primaries. CBS News tells us that's where Chris Christie is making his stand. This is despite there being zero evidence Christie has any popularity or chances there. In 2016, Christie finished in 6th place behind Donald Trump, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio.

This isn't a column about Chris Christie, though. There's no scenario where Chris Christie is - or ever was - literally, metaphorically, politically, or physically running for President. He's a cable television barfly looking to stay as long as journalists are on the primary beat.

But you can say that about more than just Christie in the Republican primaries. Vivek Ramaswamy wore out his welcome from almost the moment he arrived, with political ideas that sound ripped from the mental notes of a college stoner coughing up "new ideas" after a hit.

On the Republican side, it's Trump and only two people: Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley. But if we're being honest, there's only two: Trump and DeSantis. Nikki Haley's polling bump is a mirage in a political desert for anyone not named Donald Trump.

The stories of a Haley surge are accurate but only tell part of the story. As Varad Mehta lays out in the Washington Examiner, she's gaining from a combination of anti-Trump voters and Democrats. New Hampshire has an open primary, and with Democrats spurning that state to aid Biden, Democrats are jumping ship to vote in the Republican primary.

If you're Republican or a conservative of any stripe, you're only voting for Trump or DeSantis. Haley has pulled some DeSantis voters but not Trump voters. And so she has a hard ceiling. That's even more true in places like Iowa and other early primary states. Until Haley proves she can pull conservatives to her cause or pry Trump's voters for him, she has no path.

But she's surfing a nice wave of media attention during the consolidation phase of the race because the press is tired of talking about DeSantis and Trump. Haley's strategy is to lose Iowa, build momentum in New Hampshire (while losing there, too), and make a stand in South Carolina. There's no viable plan in Nevada, either.

Let's repeat: Haley's plan involves losing Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada before a win in South Carolina. She's not Joe Biden of 2020. On the Republican side, you have to be a winner early.

It's the path of a loser. It should seem familiar. It's the path of a moderate Republican that can't appeal to the conservative base of the Republican Party. John McCain, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and others have also crashed on those primary shores.

The only viable path for any candidate opposing Donald Trump is to pull from Trump's base and combine them with non-Trump support. Trump commands around 50% in all those polls. You're on a losing path if you're not forcing him to give up some of that support to drop him below 50%.

But that's where we are with anyone not named Ron DeSantis. It's hard math at this stage. Either you have a viable path, or your presence in the race helps Donald Trump by fracturing the field. And even with that, we're talking about the odds of a successful Death Star run in an X-Wing.

That brings us back to Chris Christie and his made-for-television campaign, where he's securing speaking gigs for the next four years. Nikki Haley's campaign is about as close to a viable path as Chris Christie's. And just like everyone gets tired of a barfly buzzing around and seeming important, a candidate with no viable paths forward is an old, tired joke.

It's time for Nikki Haley to drop out. Her path and direction haven't changed since she entered. And she's doing nothing more than ensuring a Trump victory. That's something she has claimed isn't a good thing. But his positions on Trump, conservatism, and the future of the GOP have bounced around like Mitt Romney's. 

That doesn't mean Ron DeSantis is a lock to win if she drops out. Far from it, it's a tall task. But if DeSantis drops out, Trump's support will surge, and Haley will lose. Meanwhile, if Haley drops out, DeSantis will have a shot at the king of Republican politics.

It's clear America wants an alternative to a 2020 rematch between Trump and Biden. There's not much of a chance of that happening. But if we are to achieve that, it starts with Haley dropping out.

That could be Haley's play at the end of the day. Vivek Ramaswamy is all but begging for a 2020 cabinet nod, like Mayor Pete on the Democratic side. Haley may be running for nothing more than Trump's Vice President spot. And staying in the race ensures DeSantis loses, which boosts Trump.

But there's not a single viable path for Haley. It's been true for a long time, and the math hasn't changed. Either she drops out, or we can fast forward to the Trump-Biden rematch we're heading towards.

Drop out, Haley. Your time has long since passed. At least keep your dignity, unlike Chris Christie.

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