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Nikki Haley, from harsh rival to serious Trump running mate

Photo: Joseph Prezioso Agence France-Presse Although Nikki Haley's numerous past statements about Donald Trump suggest a deep separation between the two politicians, can the Republican camp do without her as a running mate?

Fabien Deglise

Published and updated on May 23 Analysis

  • United States

Last Tuesday, the American political analysis site RealClearPolitics, which leans more to the right, still placed Nikki Haley in tenth position in its list of possible candidates for the post of vice-president of Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential election. added a footnote: “On paper, Haley is almost perfect. It would unify the party. But you expect the vice president to show her support for the president at some point. »

It is now done for the former United States ambassador to the UN (under the populist presidency) and former candidate for the nomination Republican (until last February). During a speech in Washington on Wednesday evening, she indicated that she would vote for Donald Trump next November.

In her first public speaking engagement since leaving her party's primary, the 52-year-old politician called on the ex-president to reach out to moderate voters who supported his own candidacy, while calling Joe Biden of “catastrophe.” A change of tone and posture, after his bursts of acerbic statements which, for months, targeted and denigrated the former reality TV star. A change which has now revived speculation about a possible return of Nikki Haley to the electoral race, this time at the heart of the Republican ticket, alongside Donald Trump.

The scenario is far from insane, believes David Pietrusza, historian of the American presidency. “The practice of a presidential candidate choosing a defeated rival is actually quite common, and it has even become more and more common in recent decades,” he told < in an interview on Wednesday. i>Duty.

Names ? In 1960, John F. Kennedy buried the hatchet with the one of his rivals in the Democratic primary, Lyndon B. Johnson, to make him his vice-president, thus ensuring a victory the following months against Richard Nixon. Ronald Reagan did the same in 1980, placing Bush Sr. on the Republican ticket which opened the doors to the White House for him. The Bill Clinton-Al Gore duo in 1992 or even Joe Biden-Kamala Harris in 2020 followed the same narrative, making the loser during a hotly contested inauguration the second in the American executive power.

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At the beginning of May, Donald Trump denied on his social network information from the Axios site according to which Nikki Haley's candidacy for vice-president was the subject of “serious examination” by his team of campaign. In his message, the Republican, who is a master in the art of denying things that ended up materializing, was however strangely delicate towards the one he nicknamed “bird brain” during the inauguration, wishing him “good luck”.

Although Nikki Haley's many past statements – on the mental instability of her ex-boss, on the chaos he generated during his presidency, on his worrying connections with Vladimir Putin and other autocratic leaders – suggest a deep and irreconcilable separation between the two politicians, to deprive herself of her as a running mate would be “missing a huge political opportunity”, believes Gordon Sondland, who served as United States ambassador to the European Union under Donald Trump.< /p>

The two Republicans can, by uniting, give their party a victory in November, he wrote in the pages of Wall Street Journal.

A hope for reconciliation ?

< p>Primary mathematics seems to prove him right. Last week, Nikki Haley collected 21.8% of the vote in the closed primary – that is to say strictly limited to Republican voters – in Maryland and 18.2% in that of Nebraska. And this, even though she left the race almost three months ago.

The ex-ambassador continues to attract a fringe of moderates within the party, and she could thus be the key allowing Trump to win in 2024 pivotal states narrowly won in 2020 by Joe Biden, such as Arizona, Georgia , Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania. The anti-Trump vote during the Republican primaries crystallized around the candidacy of Nikki Haley, at levels varying from 13.2% to 26.6%.

The politician would also replenish the coffers of the Republican Party, by bringing with her the main donors who supported George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney in the past – and who actively financed her campaign against Donald Trump, which had also raised the ire of the populist.

It would thereby open the way towards a possible reconciliation between radicals and moderate conservatives within the political party. A reconciliation that has become necessary after months of tensions and hateful speeches between the two factions, in Congress and elsewhere. And which the ex-president should not be able to do without to regain his chair in the White House.

“The presence of Nikki Haley would not harm the Republican ticket , explains David Pietrusza. It could lead some voters reluctant to vote for Trump again to reconsider their choice in front of this ticket, which would then become a coalition against Joe Biden. »

“If Donald Trump made this astute choice, it could change a lot of things. Including in the Democratic camp, which at the moment seems to be more worried about the candidacy of Joe Biden and to take Donald Trump lightly,” adds historian Luke A. Nichter, of Chapman University, in California, in an interview. . “This would send a wake-up call to Democrats, who will then have no option but to resolve the division within their party to seriously unite to defeat Trump. »

Not without risk

Less than six months before the presidential election, Donald Trump doesn't have much time left to nominate the person he wants to see as vice-president. He announced that he would reveal his name at the Republican Party convention in Milwaukee next July, which will confirm his presidential candidacy.

A complicated strategic choice on which the leader with autocratic accents could well stake his victory or defeat, as well as the persistence of Trumpism beyond 2024. But also the career and political future of the person who will accept the position . “It’s very difficult to say what a vice-presidential candidate might gain from being alongside Trump,” says David Pietrusza. Trump dominates the conversation. He is “the problem” 24/7, so a running mate risks getting lost in the hubbub and noise caused by Donald Trump. »

A think about it for Nikki Haley, whose aplomb and harsh (albeit late) criticism of the populist have placed her at 52 , on the path to a next presidency.

Especially since she also finds herself at a crossroads: by passing through the vice-presidency, she would ensure a presence on the political scene that could be beneficial to her in view of the presidential election that will follow. But by being too close to the chaos announced by the ex-president, she also risks, by serving Trump's interests in 2024, tainting his candidacy for 2028 – and compromising his chances of becoming the first woman to occupy the Office oval.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116