Voters are not enthusiastic about a Donald Trump versus Joe Biden rematch. Neither candidate has been popular as president. And both candidates have left voters concerned about age and vitality, wondering if there might not be someone out there under 77 capable of serving as president.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm surrounding Trump and Biden, both men are all but assured to earn their respective parties’ nominations – Biden for the second consecutive time, and Trump for the third. Still, as voters reluctantly walk down the aisle with Trump and Biden, there seems to be some sort of lingering hope that an alternative candidate might emerge. It’s not going to happen. Biden is functionally running unopposed, while Trump commands something like a 40-point lead over the closest contender.
But the public and the media are keeping an eye out for an alternative nonetheless. Suzanna Kuchar, writing for USA Today, suggested that GOP candidate Nikki Haley could be that alternative, as she “strikes a 2024 chord.” I’m less convinced, but let’s hear Kuchar out.
The case for Nikki Haley
In making the case for Nikki Haley, Kuchar cited graduate students who were “sold” on Haley as a “top three choice” after watching the former South Carolina governor and UN Ambassador in the first GOP debate.
“I just respected the way that she viewed her pro-life status, where you don’t discriminate because of other different views,” said one student, who appreciated Haley’s “down to earth” nature.
“Haley has long supported additional abortion restrictions in the United States, but she has repeatedly said Americans “need to stop demonizing” the issue. She has also argued that Republicans should be honest with Americans when proposing a national abortion ban, especially as Democrats continue to control the Senate,” Kuchar wrote.
Abortion is expected to be a marquee topic throughout the 2024 election, following last year’s SCOTUS decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Obviously, abortion is a contentious topic, frequently framed as a moral choice rather than a policy choice, as likely to inspire single-issue voters like few else.
The Republican camp has seen abortion become something of a litmus test throughout their primary, with some candidates pushing for a total abortion ban, and others pushing for more moderate partial bans. Total ban advocates, like Mike Pence, appeal to the evangelicals. But abortion hardliners risk alienating moderates, independents, and young voters the Republicans will need if they are to win a national election. As Kansas voters demonstrated last year, even in ruby-red conservative states, voters are wary of restricting abortion. Haley seems to understand the hazards of talking too tough on abortion, when most of the country is in favor of preserving some sort of abortion access.
According to Kuchar, it’s not just a moderate stance on abortion that has voters attracted to Haley, but a moderate stance in general.
“In a period of deep political polarization, with two kind of radical sides of each party, I really appreciate somebody that has the ability to be a mediator, somebody that can work with both bipartisan parties,” one student said of Haley.
Will it be enough to displace Trump from the GOP nomination? Almost certainly not. But the Republican Party at large may want to pay attention and co-opt the portions of Haley’s message that appeal to young voters.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.