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Haley says she will vote for Trump

Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Wednesday that she’ll vote for former President Trump over President Biden this fall.

“As a voter, I put my priorities on a president who’s going to have the backs of our allies and hold our enemies to account, who would secure the border, no more excuses,” Haley, the former president’s ex-rival in the Republican presidential race, said at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank. “A president who would support capitalism and freedom, a president who understands we need less debt not more debt.”

“Trump has not been perfect on these policies. I’ve made that clear, many, many times. But Biden has been a catastrophe. So, I will be voting for Trump,” she said.

Haley was the last major candidate standing between Trump and the Republican nomination when she dropped out of the contest in March.

Haley’s remarks at the institute come as she continues to be a significant presence in Republican presidential primary results, despite her exit from the race, as some in the GOP voice their frustration with Trump through protest votes. 

Haley picked up 20 percent of the vote in Maryland’s GOP primary last week, and 18 percent in Nebraska. The week before that, Haley won nearly 22 percent of the vote in Indiana’s Republican primary. Earlier this year, she also received over 100,000 votes in each of the two key battleground states of Arizona and Pennsylvania. 

Trump has brushed off the results, insisting Haley’s supporters will flock to him in the general election against Biden.  

“She got very few voters,” Trump said earlier this month. “And those voters are all coming to me, and you may have a lot of Democrats in there because they have a very tricky little system. But those voters are coming to me.”

Across the aisle, Biden’s campaign has also made a move for Haley voters disillusioned with the former president’s bid.  

“Donald Trump made it clear he doesn’t want Nikki Haley’s supporters,” Biden said in March. “I want to be clear: There is a place for them in my campaign.” 

Biden-Harris communications director Michael Tyler said after Haley’s announcement that “nothing has changed” for the Republican voters who continue to cast primary protest votes “and care deeply about the future of our democracy, standing strong with our allies against foreign adversaries, and working across the aisle to get things done for the American people – while also rejecting the chaos, division and violence that Donald Trump embodies.”

Haley joined the Hudson Institute as its Walter P. Stern chair in April. The post could help the former South Carolina governor maintain a notable profile ahead of the 2028 GOP presidential primary, for which she has repeatedly been floated.

Many people will see Haley’s remarks as tacitly endorsing Donald Trump’s candidacy by confessing her intention to vote for him in November. The subhead is that her endorsement was an uniquely tepid one insofar as it was framed entirely as a rejection of Joe Biden’s presidency — a conclusion from which Trump benefits by default.

Neither of these two takeaways center on the most interesting excerpt from her remarks on the 2024 presidential election. Rather, the most newsworthy portion of her comments involved her decision to neuter her own modest movement.

“Having said that,” Haley added following her statement in favor of Trump’s restoration to the presidency, “I stand by what I said in my suspension speech. Trump would be smart to reach out to the millions of people who voted for me and continue to support me and not assume that they’re just going to be with him.”

The obvious rejoinder to Haley’s unrequited outreach is, why should he? What is Donald Trump’s incentive to “reach out” to Haley’s supporters when she just gave away whatever leverage she still retained from the primaries? If Donald Trump assumes her voters are “just going to be with him,” that’s a pretty sound assumption given that Haley herself had done just that in the absence of any concessions from the Trump camp or the MAGA movement.

When it comes to the few Trump-skeptics who still call themselves Republicans, Trump can afford to rest on his laurels. Joe Biden has up to now done little to court those voters save his insistence that he is, in fact, courting them. But conservatives are wise to retain some misgivings about their association with a movement led by a figure who explicitly rejects conservatism and has stated his intention to supplant conservatism as the Republican Party’s ideological loadstar. It might have been wise for Haley, who fought for and won the mantle of the Republican articulating an alternative vision to Trumpism within the GOP, to hold out for some — in fact, any — concession from Trump to the virtues of limited government and free markets. Instead, she gave away the store.

If she had stood her ground, Haley might have extracted rhetorical or even policy concessions from the former president. But she didn’t. It was a missed opportunity — one of so many that has resulted in the Republican Party remaking itself in the image of one deeply flawed man.

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