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A Haley-Trump Partnership Would Be Unimpeachable

Nikki Haley is not Donald Trump’s nemesis, but rather his saving grace. Photo © The Executive Office of the President of the United States on Picryl

Staff Writer Anna Orwin Algeo examines the prospect of Donald Trump selecting Nikki Haley as his running mate for the White House.

If you suggested that Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s ‘birdbrained’ nemesis, should be his vice-president, many would suggest that you’re as sane as Joe Biden is believed to be. But then again, stranger things have happened. Donald Trump possesses a list of achievements that read more like a rap sheet than attributes akin to a presidential candidate: twice impeached and 34 felony charges, with a sprinkling of domestic terrorism. No, I am not joking. This is America.

Adhering to what appears to be a global trend, contemporary America is hardly synonymous with rational politics. It arguably resembles a Hollywood blockbuster more than anything else. With the primaries and caucuses wrapping up, the movie in question is Groundhog Day. A 2020 style Trump vs Biden showdown is imminent. In fact, there is only one variable in this year’s Biden-Trump rematch; Trump’s running mate and the potential new vice-president. Here is a good point to clarify that, for obvious reasons, Trump would probably rather endorse Joe Biden than give Mike Pence another chance at the vice-presidency. So, with that in mind, welcome to Trump’s ‘veepstakes’.

When selecting a vice-president, there are three important criteria to consider: candidates should have the skills to secure victory, the expertise to help govern, and the competency to step up and take over, if necessary. However, given that it’s doubtful Trump can even envisage a strong America that exists in his absence, it is unlikely that he is interested in any factors beyond the first. And he may have a point.

In politics, there’s no use thinking about the long-term if you can’t secure the short-term. Despite the current polls projecting a Republican victory, pre-election polls are notoriously unreliable. For example, if we followed the stats at this stage of the election cycle in 2016, we would be expecting to be nearing the end of an eight-year Clinton presidency. Although a win in November for Trump is more of a probability than a pipedream, it is important not to get complacent. Regardless of the fact that Trump is resolutely beating the Democrats on pretty much every issue – from foreign policy to domestic policy to the economy – just to name a few – the Democrats do have one smoking gun — the abortion issue.

The role which Trump’s Supreme Court appointees played in overturning Roe V Wade and the consequent onslaught of legislative restrictions over female bodily autonomy, caused Trump’s approval ratings among women to plummet.
Many suburban women, normally a staple of the Republican support base, now oppose Trump. And with 12% of voters saying that abortion is their main issue this election, it takes no genius or statistician to deduce the correlation. Currently, 58% of women back Biden compared to the modest 36% who support Trump. With this gap only growing, it would be foolish for Trump to rely solely on loyal MAGA supporters in Republican strongholds to bring home the presidency. You only need to look back to 2020 to see how a few bellwether states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) were vital in swinging the election result. In other words, for Trump to claim presidential victory, he needs to galvanise support from all the major demographics and recapture the support of women.

To do this Trump needs an outreach vice-president. Although recently Republican presidential candidates have favoured consolidation picks for the VP ticket, 2024 presents a very different challenge. In 2016, Mike Pence represented the predictable quality in a seemingly unpredictable Trump administration. He reassured the more moderate wing of the Republican Party that the Trump administration wouldn’t stray too far away from conventional party lines, successfully appealing to the Republican establishment as well as evangelical voters. Today, however, a lack of support from the establishment is not an issue Trump faces. What Trump needs now is something that will energise the base.

By association, a female running mate would help Trump to mitigate the abortion controversy alongside the problem of his own misogynistic image. However, being a woman isn’t enough. If Trump really wants to convert suburban female voters, he needs Haley. Unlike the other potential candidates, Haley has the skills necessary to diffuse the Democrat’s abortion trump card (excuse the pun). Having previously served as Trump’s United Nations ambassador, Haley professes vast amounts of policy experience without having an incriminating congressional record. She could implement a party line which aligns with the Supreme Court, simply re-affirming Trump’s position that abortion should be an issue which is decided at a state level rather than at a federal level.

Haley’s previous role as governor of a Republican stronghold is inconsequential in her role as an outreach pick. With America increasingly ideologically divided, geography holds less weight than it once did. Gone are the days of the Carter-Mondale style partnerships where picking a vice-president from a swing state ensured the loyalty of that district. Recently however, the Democrats have demonstrated how ideological outreach vice-presidents can be essential in achieving electoral success. For example, Kamala Harris was very much an outreach pick by the Biden administration. There is no doubt that in the aftermath of the horrific murder of George Floyd, America was in a moment of racial reckoning. Multi-racial representation in the Democratic Party was something to be warmly welcomed.

As a result of her continuous involvement in front-line politics, Haley has developed the brand recognition necessary to provide a similar level of reassurance to wavering Republican voters. Despite Trump going full MAGA for his second term, Haley’s support would demonstrate to swing voters that ‘normal’ people do still have a place in the Trump administration.

Given the next Republican vice-president’s automatic position as the presumptive heir apparent to the Republican nomination in 2028, there is no question that, despite their fraught history, Haley would jump at the chance to be part of the Trump administration. The real question is whether Trump is prepared to accept Haley as his right-hand woman. With no forthcoming gifts of personalised Mount Rushmore sculptures, Haley doesn’t provide Trump with the same levels of reassurance other potential candidates do. Moreover, Pence’s very public unwillingness to ‘stop the steal’ can
hardly have convinced Trump of the merits of another strategic pick. One thing is for sure though, Trump has no end of options, and with a decision expected to be made before the Republican nomination convention in July, there is plenty of time to wait and see.

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