Nikki Haley won't save Trump
Nikki Haley will not save Donald Trump's presidency. For her own sake — and perhaps the future of the Republican Party — she shouldn't even try.
Nonetheless, it appears that a "Draft Haley" movement is underfoot. The Wall Street Journal printed an op-ed from Andrew Stein — he started the "Democrats for Trump" group in 2016 — urging the president to dump Mike Pence as his vice president and add Haley, the former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor, to the Republican ticket as his running mate in 2020.
Stein's reasoning: Haley could help Trump attract "moderate, suburban women" he'll need to win re-election.
"Nikki Haley on the ticket could tamp down the antipathy for Mr. Trump that seems to afflict so many moderate and Republican-leaning women," Stein wrote. "President Trump needs the prospect of a Vice President Haley to help recapture the White House."
Stein's op-ed is worth noting for two reasons. First, as The New York Times' Maggie Haberman noted, there's a good chance the piece was published with the approval of Wall Street Journal owner Rupert Murdoch, who remains such a force for — and within — the Republican Party. If he wants Haley on the ticket, it seems likely that Trump will at least hear him out.
Second: Stein's proposal appeared just days after E. Jean Carroll, the advice columnist, went public with her accusation that Trump raped her at a Manhattan department store sometime in the mid-1990s. Stein's accusation was the latest in a long line of allegations against Trump, who also has a long history — including but not limited to the infamous Access Hollywood tape — of misogyny on his public record. This history is one reason Trump needs help with women voters in the first place.
Haley is rumored to have White House ambitions of her own. Certainly, she's one of the few officials to serve in the Trump administration — male or female — and emerge with her reputation more or less intact. Why would she throw all that away just to run as Trump's sidekick?
She shouldn't. She probably can't save Trump. And trying to do so might spoil her own future shot at the White House.
Haley can't save Trump because he's already deeply unpopular with women: He won just 41 percent of women's votes in 2016. And his Oval Office tenure so far has seen the GOP shed even that meager support — women Republicans have defected from the party, and their numbers in the House dropped from 23 to 13 in the recent midterm elections.
"The suburban women that I represent are definitely turned off by the president," one of the defectors, Kansas State Rep. Stephanie Clayton (D), said late last year.
It's unlikely Haley could help Trump improve on those numbers. In 2008, Sen. John McCain added Sarah Palin to his presidential ticket in a naked attempt to woo women who might have felt jilted over Hillary Clinton losing that year's Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. Just 43 percent of women voted for McCain that year.
Of course, Haley is better credentialed and better prepared for the national spotlight than Palin, who was plucked from near-obscurity. But that's precisely why Haley should stay far away from a Trump ticket.
If she bides her time, after all, she could get to run for the GOP nomination with a relatively clean slate. If she runs with Trump and he somehow wins, she'd end up stuck with his record as her own for four years. And if she runs with Trump and he loses, well, she'd have the stink of that failure on her record as well.
There is simply no upside for Haley to run alongside Trump in 2020.
The Republican Party may be well-served by her refusal to do so. For the GOP to be viable, it will have to recapture some women voters at some point — the party can't depend exclusively on the support of white men. But that rebuilding is unlikely to begin as long as Trump is on the ticket.
So Haley might as well keep her powder dry and wait to run in 2024. It gives her — and the GOP — the best shot at winning the White House again in the post-Trump era.