Republican presidential candidate, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, speaks during a campaign event at Exeter High School on January 21, 2024, in Newmarket, New Hampshire.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
On Sunday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped out of the 2024 presidential race.Now, only two major Republican candidates remain: Trump and his former UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley.Given Trump’s massive lead, Haley’s best chance for the nomination is to outlast his campaign.
After only one primary election, the playing field to become the Republican presidential nominee has already boiled down to two final candidates: former President Donald Trump and his former Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.
Trump, who’s by far the leading GOP candidate in the race thus far averaging 66.2% support in national polls, appears to have an easy path to the party’s nomination.
The former president trounced his opponents in the first Republican primary in Iowa earlier in January, with the state’s primary being called in favor of Trump surprisingly early in the night (he ultimately received 51% of the vote).
Moving forward, there isn’t a single state where Trump isn’t leading in primary polling.
Even in New Hampshire, a state where Haley has campaigned extensively, spent millions on advertisements, and was expected to rout Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis before he dropped out of the race, she’s still trailing the former president by double digits.
With this in mind, Haley’s best bet to become the GOP’s presidential nominee isn’t by amassing the most delegates via early or even mid-primary election success.
She’s got to outlast him.
Republican presidential candidates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley participate in the CNN Republican Presidential Primary Debate in Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University on January 10, 2024, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Last candidate standing wins
Instead, it appears the only way she’ll be able to personally take on Democratic President Joe Biden in November will be if Trump drops out of the race amidst the abundance of legal battles he’s facing tied to the 91 felony charges levied against him in 2023.
Unlikely? Perhaps. But not impossible, given the number and magnitude of the charges levies against him.
Earlier on in her campaign, it appeared as if Haley was keeping her options open to becoming Trump’s running mate after she wouldn’t rule out the possibility.
In recent weeks, however, Trump’s directly attacked Haley on Truth Social. He compared her to his 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, mocked Haley’s birth name, and alleged she was ineligible to run for president because of her parents’ citizenship when she was born (similar to his racist allegations against former President Barack Obama).
Haley has also been the beneficiary of a considerable amount of fundraising that specifically comes from anti-Trump donors within the Republican party, many of whom are deeply skeptical that the former president will be able to beat Biden in a rematch. Haley has thrown her lot in with their cause.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in the Oval Office of the White House, Oct. 9, 2018, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo
How long will the money — and her willingness to take the full brunt of Trump’s attacks — last?
With this in mind, it certainly seems that Trump’s ruled Haley out from his short list of running mates. Some experts have speculated he may choose the chair of the House Republican Conference, Rep. Elise Stefanik, instead.
If Haley can’t win the nomination the “traditional” way, and is no longer one of the leading candidates to be Trump’s potential vice president, her best bet to earn a spot in the White House is to keep her campaign going for more than half a year of primary loss after primary loss in the hope Trump and his campaign bid adieu before November.
With more than six months until the GOP nominee is crowned at the Republican Convention in Milwaukee, a major question remains: How many losses and how much abuse from Trump can Haley take before dropping out and falling in line?