Nikki Haley Will be the First GOP Candidate to Seriously Challenge Donald Trump: This coming Wednesday, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is expected to announce her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination – becoming only the first major Republican politician to challenge former President Donald Trump.
The event, which will be held in Charleston, South Carolina, could open the floodgates as other GOP hopefuls are expected to launch their own campaigns in the weeks and months ahead – and in advance of the primary season that begins in just about a year.
Nikki Haley: The First of Many to Challenge Donald Trump?
A half-dozen or more Republicans are expected to join the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination contest, down significantly from the run-up to the 2016 primaries when there were more than 20 who eventually threw their hat into the ring.
Many burned out quickly, taken down by Trump’s divide-and-conquer strategy.
Someone had to be the first to take on Trump, but pundits have called it a risky move to announce this month.
“While there’s clearly been some reluctance to get in early, she’s setting herself apart and creating an opportunity for herself to define herself early, to establish her campaign,” longtime New Hampshire-based national Republican strategist Jim Merrill told Fox News on Sunday.
A Long Shot or the First Woman President?
The 51-year-old Nikki Haley is already coming into the race as a wild card and even a long shot.
“It’s going to be quite the high-wire act,” veteran Republican strategist Terry Sullivan told the Associated Press. “She says she’s always been an underdog. She will be again.”
She was the first woman governor of South Carolina, and the first Indian-American ever elected to statewide office in the Palmetto State, as well as the youngest governor in the country.
This could help her appeal to moderate voters.
The Trump Factor
According to Stuart Stevens, a former Republican political consultant, Nikki Haley will still have to distance herself from Trump.
In a New York Times op-ed on Monday, he wrote, “No political figure better illustrates the tragic collapse of the modern Republican Party than Nikki Haley. There was a time not very long ago when she was everything the party thought it needed to win. She was a woman when the party needed more women, a daughter of immigrants when the party needed more immigrants, a young changemaker when the party needed younger voters, and a symbol of tolerance who took down the Confederate flag when the party needed more people of color and educated suburbanites.”
Her appeal, however, could be impacted by the fact she may have opted to stand by Donald Trump too long – and that could make it hard for her to be the anti-Trump candidate.
Katon Dawson, a former chair of the South Carolina Republican Party who is backing Nikki Haley, told TheHill.com, “Nikki’s had some tough races, and she’s used to running against the gold standard” and added, “There’s a lane in there for an anti-Trump. There’s a lane in there to be successful. And I think there’s a lane in there for Nikki Haley.”
The issue she may have to face is whether she is genuinely an anti-Trump alternative or a turn-coat who supported the former president until the winds changed.
She was – like the vast majority in the GOP – a supporter of Trump even after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. In fact, it wasn’t until Trump-backed candidates across several key states were defeated in last fall’s midterm elections that a wave of high-profile Republicans, including Nikki Haley, began to openly weigh 2024 bids against him.
Nikki Haley may simply be the first, but likely won’t be the last. It could be do-or-die for her – can she break out early and appeal to those looking for a Trump alternative, or will her past loyalty be baggage that will keep her campaign from taking off?
Come Wednesday, we’ll find out.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.