Photo of Nikki Haley

Haley Campaign Press Release - Haley is the Last Candle Fending Off Darkness. And She's Fired Up.

January 29, 2024

By: George F. Will
Online here

Until Feb. 24, the geography of 2024's presidential politics will suggest a satisfying symmetry. The first state that voted for secession can put the nation on a path away from today's political vitriol — the worst since the 1850s. A South Carolinian who lives here, 27 miles from the Charleston harbor fort at which the Civil War's first shots were fired, is neither in a surrendering mood nor short of ammunition.

South Carolinian truculence threatened the nation's unity 163 years ago. Today, that trait has the state's former governor Nikki Haley, a self-described "street fighter in heels," spoiling for a fight. Almost the entire Republican elite, in Washington and in this state, is prostrate before Donald Trump, the supposed populist scourge of the "establishment." She is, however, approved by 76 percent of this state's voters. They remember that Haley earned the enmity of the state's political establishment by enforcing transparency: Before she did, only 8 percent of House and 1 percent of Senate decisions were by recorded votes.

This state's voters also might reasonably resent Trump's apparent belief that her continuing candidacy is an affront to his grandeur. And his impertinence that their primary election is a nullity, given his inevitability.

Calling herself a "happy warrior," looking inexplicably rested and exuding an exuberant pugnacity, she is wagering that Trump cannot keep his composure for four weeks. And that a majority of voters, already embarrassed and exhausted by Trump, will be more so if he has a testosterone spill when she relentlessly needles him about being afraid to debate someone with two X chromosomes.

President Biden's handlers cannot allow him out campaigning for nine months because they know what voters will see. Trump's operatives cannot know what he does not know: what he will say next. One of Haley's tasks is to trigger him.

In South Carolina, independents can vote in either party's primary. Many of them — especially independent suburban women, who are apt to be decisive in November — are weary of behavior from Trump that they would not tolerate from their children.

A British diplomat, one of Theodore Roosevelt's close friends, when asked to explain TR, said: You must understand that the president is about 6 years old. The ambassador was referring to TR's overflowing enthusiasm, energy and curiosity. Trump only has a 6-year-old's defects: lack of impulse control, and a penchant for infantile insults — e.g., referring to Haley as "birdbrain."

Laughing at him might not be Haley's preferred mode of attack. Voters, however, are in no mood for policy speeches, such as the one she gave at the Hudson Institute in 2020 — a luminous defense of economic freedom against the statism, corporatism and protectionism that make Biden and Trump kindred spirits. For perhaps the first time in U.S. history, and certainly for the first time in modern polling, voters' concerns about immigration — Biden's chaos at the border — eclipses all other issues, including the economy.

This fact. And Trump's weirdness. (Between his inauguration and his expulsion from the platform, he tweeted 26,237 times — about 18 times a day). And his increasingly erratic behavior under the pressure of his legal difficulties. And Haley revealing his manifold insecurities. All these facts require her to run a MANA campaign: Make America Normal Again.

Trump's electoral weakness is as obvious as is the probability of a Haley landslide against Biden. Trump was weaker in the Iowa caucuses (51 percent) than in the 2020 election in Iowa (53 percent). He won just 30 percent of independents in New Hampshire, where 21 percent of voters in the Republican primary said they would not support Trump in November. In 21 coming Republican primaries, including 11 of the 15 on Super Tuesday (March 5), voters do not have to be registered Republicans.

South Carolinians, remember this: In 2020, Trump lost the suburbs by 10 percent. And 6 percent more women than men voted. And Biden carried women by a larger margin than Trump carried men. Why would anyone consider Trump a stronger candidate than Haley against Biden?

This is a cliché: It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. This is a fact: Haley is the last candle fending off darkness.

Many South Carolinians are eager to snuff out Republican competition by supporting Trump. Do they wonder why Biden, too, ardently wants Trump's nomination guaranteed immediately? If, however, South Carolina prolongs the nominating process by supporting Haley, there will be time for pleasant Republican surprises and sudden Democratic forebodings.

Nikki Haley, Haley Campaign Press Release - Haley is the Last Candle Fending Off Darkness. And She's Fired Up. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives