Elections: US presidential candidacy – What does Nikki Haley want?

The race for the US Republican presidential nomination appears to be over before it has even begun. Trump leads by far in polls. But his rival Haley continues to fight.

Nikki Haley wants to stay in the race. “I have to show that I’m gaining momentum,” the 52-year-old Republican said recently with a view to the US primaries. She wants to be her party’s candidate for president – but her chances are slim. Haley is Donald Trump’s last serious opponent in the race. But the former US president is far ahead of his former ambassador to the United Nations in polls and has already clearly won against her in two primaries – in Iowa and New Hampshire. What does Haley expect from her election campaign?

Scenario number one: Trump is out

Trump is 77 years old. If he wins the presidential election on November 5th, he would be 78 years old when he takes office in January. Trump would then even be a few months older than current President Joe Biden when he took office. And he was the oldest president ever to move into the White House. Trump always boasts about his excellent health. But his health checks during his time in the White House revealed obesity and heart problems. So it’s not out of the question that Haley is speculating that Trump will be out for health reasons.

And then there are the Republican’s legal problems. These include four criminal proceedings – including because of his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. In theory, Trump could even govern from prison. In addition, the wheels of justice grind slowly. A possible conviction before the election is unlikely. The question still remains as to whether Trump could be excluded from the Republican primary. His opponents had sued, arguing that Trump had forfeited his right to run for president again because of his role in the storming of the US Capitol. The US Supreme Court will consider the issue on February 8th.

In the unlikely event that Trump fails, it would be Haley’s chance to fill that void. But then she is dependent on the support of Trump supporters in the party. Haley has recently attacked the 77-year-old quite clearly – for example because of his age. But so far she has shied away from clearly condemning him for his lies about alleged election fraud. Because that would alienate his extreme supporters.

Scenario number two: Haley becomes Trump’s running mate

There is already a lot of speculation in the USA about who Trump might choose as his candidate for vice president. The names of ultra-radical Trump fans who are loyal to the Republican are mentioned. As a rule, presidential candidates use their so-called running mate to try to get someone to their side who appeals to groups of voters that they tend not to reach themselves.

By this logic, Haley would be the perfect candidate. She is a woman, the daughter of Indian immigrants and is considered more moderate than Trump. In the moderate east coast state of New Hampshire, she won a reasonable 43 percent of the vote in the primary, while Trump got 54 percent. The race made it clear once again that Haley is particularly well received by more moderate voters. “It seems to me that Trump almost has to choose her as vice president,” said pollster and political strategist Mark Penn in a recent interview with Politico.

But Trump is known for his great pride. It remains to be seen whether he would forgive Haley for the verbal attacks of the past few weeks. He may also fear that the former governor of South Carolina is not loyal enough or might steal the show. Even as Trump’s US ambassador to the United Nations, she showed a “certain willingness” to defy the White House, notes the Washington Post. And Haley? She has ruled out becoming Trump’s running mate. But that’s hardly surprising in the election campaign. Haley had once also ruled out running for president if Trump ran.

Scenario number three: Haley runs as an independent candidate

Polls show that many Republican Haley supporters would not vote for Trump but for Democrat Biden if the race between Trump and Biden were rematched. Especially if Haley enters the race as an independent candidate, she could cost Trump the votes he needs to win against Biden because she would split the vote for the Republicans. It’s unlikely that Haley wants to achieve that. Unlike Republican Liz Cheney, who was fired by her own party, Haley has never expressed the desire to use all her might to prevent another Trump presidency. Your political enemy is Biden. Nevertheless, Trump is also likely to be aware of the fact that Haley could deprive him of a victory. And that gives her power.

Scenario number four: Haley wants to go to the White House after the 2028 election

In the United States, a person can serve as president for two terms, whether consecutive or not. This means that if Trump wins the election in November, he would not be able to run again afterwards. If Haley were Trump’s vice president, that would make her Trump’s natural successor to the White House.

But Trump could also lose to Biden in the November election. Then it would be better for Haley if she wasn’t associated with the defeat as a running mate. If she doesn’t switch to his camp before the election, a Trump defeat would be Haley’s “I told you so” moment, writes Elaine Kamarck from the US think tank Brookings. Haley could then pave the way for a generational change in the Republican Party after Trump – and would recommend running for office in 2028.

But whatever strategy Haley chooses, in the end it may not be her who decides how long she can stick to her application. Because in the USA, money determines the election campaign. If Haley’s major donors lose faith in her, the race is over for her. This will probably become apparent after the primary election in her home state of South Carolina at the end of February at the latest. Trump also leads by far in the conservative southern state. If Haley suffers a serious defeat there, it could damage her politically beyond the primary campaign.