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Come On, Nikki
Do you want to win this or not?
Nikki Haley entered the 2024 presidential race earlier this week, making her announcement in front of a couple thousand enthusiastic supporters in her home-state of South Carolina. In her speech, she spoke of the problems and challenges our country has been facing under Democratic leadership and policies, along with the negative societal effects of wokeism. But what stood out to most observers that day was a shot she seemed to take at both Joe Biden and Donald Trump, without naming names.
“America is not past our prime,” she said. “It’s just that our politicians are past theirs.”
Her implication was that the presidential front-runners were too old — mentally and physically — to be running for second terms. And in case that wasn’t clear in her speech, she’s been driving home the point ever since, in interviews and on social media. She’s even calling for politicians over 75 to submit to cognitive tests (again without naming names).
Haley, who’s 51, may gain a little traction with that message. And her energy, strong grasp of the issues, and culture-war pandering may appeal to a good number of Republican voters. It also didn’t hurt that CNN’s Don Lemon gave her a huge campaign-launch gift this week, neatly wrapped in sexism:
I realize 2023 is still young, but I hereby nominate Lemon for this year’s Michael Scott award. And on a side note, can you imagine the media hell-fire Lemon would be under right now if he were a conservative?
Anyway, back to Haley.
She’s running for president, and in order to be successful, she would first need to win the Republican primary. To do that, she must convince a sizeable portion of Republican voters that she’s the best person for the job. To do that, she must distinguish herself from the party’s front-runner (and only other candidate currently in the race), Donald Trump.
She’s already established that she’s younger than Trump. That’s a good start, I guess. But what differences are there beyond that? Sean Hannity sought to find out on his Fox News show just hours after Haley’s campaign announcement.
“If you had to delineate where, say, you and President Trump differ on issues, where would you start?” he asked.
Remarkably, with millions of Republican voters tuned in, she had no answer. She instead fell back on her point about age and the need for younger, more vibrant leaders. She then regurgitated her list of challenges facing the country.
Hannity patiently waited for her to get out her talking points, then gave her a second chance to answer his question.
“Let me go back to my original question because anybody that is looking or is seeking the nomination, you’re going to be comparing and contrasting your policy positions,” he correctly stated. “Where do you see – if you see – policy differences beyond what you mentioned, which are generational differences? What specific policy areas would you say part with Donald Trump?”
Again, she punted.
“What I am saying is I don’t kick sideways,” she replied. “I’m kicking forward. Joe Biden is the president. He’s the one I’m running against.”
It was an extraordinary waste of a prime opportunity to start her campaign off on substantive footing. How could she not have a prepared answer for the most basic of questions for anyone running for their party’s nomination?
Trump certainly had an answer. He greeted Haley’s entrance to the race by dumping a pile of policy criticisms on her (interestingly from the left) over her previously stated positions on entitlement reform, foreign policy, immigration, and other issues.
Haley is a smart, capable person. She knows what it takes to win a primary… which makes one wonder — as I have — if winning is even her objective. I wrote a couple weeks ago that I suspect Haley is actually vying to become Trump’s running-mate. And fecklessness like this, along with her humiliating political maneuvering over the last two years, only fuels that speculation.
Sure, we’re very early in this process; it’s certainly important to remember that. And maybe (and hopefully) I’ll be proven wrong.
But if age remains Haley’s defining argument — a narrative which could almost as easily be applied to an argument for a 78-year-old presidential nominee requiring a notably younger Vice President (especially one that could appeal to women voters, a demographic that nominee has had serious trouble with) — I don’t think I’ll need any more convincing that that’s indeed what’s going on.
And if it is, that would be a shame for both the party and the country.