Good Friday Morning! Except to the state of Alabama. When Tennessee beat Alabama in October, they did it on October 15th, on an offensive drive with 15 seconds left, after losing 15 straight times to Alabama, and Bru McCoy #15 caught the biggest pass of the year to set up the game-winning field goal. The fun continued this week when the Tennessee Men’s Basketball team beat the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide exactly four months later on February 15th, continuing the fun game with numbers.
This week, I’m going to dive into Nikki Haley’s entrance into the Presidential primaries and go through two points: 1) Why she faces an uphill battle, and 2) why 2024 will be as much about 2016 as anything else. Links to follow.
- One quick note: the balloon sage continues. Biden gave a speech in which he said: “confirmed the three additional UFOs that were shot down and said they were ‘most likely’ private, not more Chinese spy balloons.” We still don’t know what that means. AviationWeek ran a piece saying that a “Hobby Club’s Missing Balloon Feared Shot Down By USAF.” They theorize that this club lost its balloon to the US military. Is it true? Who knows. I found this counter-argument by Adam Cochran compelling. He argues that the government is still lying about these objects in the air because a hobby balloon wouldn’t take a missile to take out. Whatever the case, this entire ordeal continues to be a massive embarrassment to the United States.
Where you can find me this week
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[02/13/2023] Chinese threaten all US policy from Monroe Doctrine to present – Conservative Institute
[02/17/2023] East Palestine deserves honesty from EPA, Feds – Conservative Institute
Nikki Haley enters the race, and the 2024 Presidential Cycle is officially open.
The 2024 campaign season is upon us. The first entrants are jumping in, and the summer portion of the cycle is setting up. When people think of the 2024 election, they naturally think about November 2024. But in reality, the race starts now. By this time next year in 2024, we will have already gone through the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primaries, and Nevada caucuses, in that order. The Iowa caucuses are set for January 22, 2024 – we’re less than 11 months away from that pivotal moment in the Republican primaries.
In the 2016 cycle, the first Republican debate was held on August 6, 2015. That’s less than six months away if we have a similar timeline. So while I saw many commentators saying Nikki Haley jumped into the race early, in reality, she’s on schedule for a campaign fighting uphill.
Like most on the right, I see Haley’s campaign as a long shot. She’s starting as a third-tier candidate – and I don’t believe there’s a second-tier. I want to go through why Haley faces such long odds and how perception will shape the start of these primaries.
First, Nikki Haley. I like Haley, I think she has considerable talent, and I hope she’s a part of Republican politics for a long time. Her greatest enemy in 2024 is timing. For politicians, you need both talent and good timing. Sometimes, even talented politicians miss their timing. For instance, Chris Christie should have run in 2012 but missed his moment. Elizabeth Warren should have run in 2016 but imploded multiple times over in a crowded 2020 field.
Nikki Haley has had it worse than most because her rising star never matched the electoral calendar. She was elected to the South Carolina Governor’s office in 2011, which was too soon to do anything in 2012. In 2016, she was a young rising star but a few years away from hitting the national level. In 2020, she couldn’t run because Trump was the incumbent. And now she enters a 2024 field where she’s a distinct longshot.
Compare that to where Ron DeSantis is right now. His star is rocketing up right as 2024 is on the horizon. George W. Bush had this in 2000. That momentum helps when you have it. That doesn’t make Haley chopped liver. I think she’d be a perfect Vice Presidential or Secretary of State pick for a Republican President. But it’s hard to see her surviving a GOP field that starts with Trump vs. DeSantis and has a massive dropoff after that.
That brings us to the 2024 primaries. An old military adage goes something like this: “soldiers are always preparing to fight the last war.”
It’s a criticism because soldiers trained for the past cannot fight the present or think about the future when an innovation appears on the battlefield. This is true of politics, particularly on the GOP side for the last several cycles.
In 2016, Republicans were focused on losing to Obama twice in 2008 and 2012. They wanted a fighter. In 2012, Republicans wanted someone smart and could challenge Obama because they saw McCain as a lightweight. In 2008, McCain was the one candidate free of the Bush years. George W. Bush won in 2000 by challenging the Clinton years on morality and offering to cut back on the drama and excesses of those elections.
In the 2024 primaries, Republicans will start out viewing this race through a 2016 lens – for better or worse. The overarching lesson of 2016 was that Donald Trump started with a plurality of Republican voters but not a majority. And because the non-Trump vote refused to consolidate until too late, Trump could scramble the field and win.
In 2016, no single person could meet Trump with a similarly sized base to challenge Trump. Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, and the rest had much smaller bases, most of which were transactional. Once they couldn’t win, people pivoted to Trump.
But that brings me back to the primaries and fighting the last battle. People who want to move on from Trump will believe that any other non-Trump candidate will pull support from Ron DeSantis. DeSantis is the only ticket available if you want a post-Trump party.
Nikki Haley and other candidates will be perceived as helping Trump win the race by fracturing the field. Is this an accurate assessment? I have my doubts. But my doubts aren’t the perception that opens the 2024 primaries. People will re-fight 2016 and say that “more candidates helps Trump.” There will be a focus to try and narrow the field faster.
Who will do this? I suspect Rupert Murdoch’s outlets will go first, with Fox News and the NYPost elevating DeSantis and pushing against other options. After that, large Republican donors will be the next line of deciding who gets funded to stay in the race. Again, this is all about relitigating the “mistakes of 2016.”
I have some doubts about this way of viewing 2024. For starters, 2024 Donald Trump is not 2016 Donald Trump. In 2016, Donald Trump was truly an outsider. His celebrity and ability to take over entire news cycles, choking out all other candidates, helped him dominate a fractured field. Even with his notoriety, he was still a new entity in politics, forcing everyone else to respond to him.
That’s not true in 2024. Donald Trump is running for a second term after losing in 2020 and having many of his handpicked acolytes lose spectacularly in the 2022 midterms. He’s not an unknown entity in any way, and he has to defend his beliefs about what happened in the 2020 elections, which are toxic to the voting public. These things are proving to matter, both to the general public and Republican voters.
Second, the field is not starting as splintered factionally as it did in 2016. Right now, it’s a two-man race between Trump and DeSantis. In a race, Trump has to react to and chase DeSantis as much as everyone else had to chase him in 2016. Trump also has the veneer of a loser after 2020, with DeSantis coming off one of the most dominant performances by a Republican governor in a purple state since Ronald Reagan in California.
Third, the electoral issues and dynamics that animated 2016 will be absent in 2024. By that, I mean the issues are different. Most economists still believe we’re on the brink of recession, inflation is out of hand, school choice is a top issue in the states (see DeSantis and Youngkin), and American foreign policy is a disaster. Leading up to the 2024 races, one man is in the arena and fray, and the other sits at Mar-a-Lago, sending out faux-tweets on his small social media platform.
People had long joked that Trump’s lot in life improved when he was out of the picture. That was true when he was President and leading the Republican pack. When DeSantis is out grabbing headlines and fighting Democrats, Trump vanishing into the background is terrible for him.
That’s why we’ll eventually see Trump return to using Facebook and Twitter full-time if he wants to win this race. He’s not going to win sending out messages on Truth-Social. He has to dominate the media and get eyeballs. Love them or hate them; that still happens on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (any politician on TikTok will lose, and deservedly so).
The question is this: how long does the perception last that 2024 is about relitigating 2016? I doubt that lasts throughout the primaries. Electoral cycles are organic things that can shift with events, even as we analyze them based on demographics and other factors.
I’ve made minimal effort to disguise that I’m pro-DeSantis headed into 2024. What is the path for Nikki Haley or any other Republican? There are two options: 1) replace either Trump or DeSantis in the two-person race. If you can edge out one of those two and claim the second spot, you’ve pulled a miracle. Or 2) Splinter factions to win a plurality. This option would require winning Trump and DeSantis voters away, creating another lane.
It’s a tall order, either way. If you’re in that Nikki Haley tier of candidates, you need a significant slip-up from the two main guys to give you an opening. Otherwise, the door is closed. Could that slip-up happen? Sure! There are plenty of top-tier candidates who flame out. Some people have tried to compare DeSantis to Jeb Bush or Scott Walker, but I don’t think those hold for DeSantis.
Still, the possibility exists. For now, Nikki Haley will get attention because DeSantis isn’t in the race, none of the other candidates expected to jump in have done so, and the press is predictably attacking her. That won’t last. And even with the debates not long off, six months is still an eternity measured in campaign days. Elections are like kids: long days, short years.
As the election sets up, I’d watch two things. First, watch for how people are re-fighting 2016 battles and, to a lesser extent, 2020. And second, watch for the candidates who try to break out of that mold, scrambling the dynamics of the race. Suppose the perception that we’re trying to avoid 2016 never gets broken. In that case, it will be challenging for anyone not named DeSantis or Trump to get a word in edgewise.
Links of the week
A Black Professor Trapped in Anti-Racist Hell – Vincent Lloyd, Compact Magazine
The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling: ‘You could not have misunderstood me more profoundly.’ A new audio series featuring extensive interviews with the world’s most successful author. – Megan Phelps-Roper, The FP
Senior Democrats’ Private Take on Biden: He’s Too Old: They worry a lot about an 82-year-old nominee, but fear the battle over Kamala Harris that would ensue if he pulls out. – Jonathan Martin, Politico
I Thought I Was Saving Trans Kids. Now I’m Blowing the Whistle: There are more than 100 pediatric gender clinics across the U.S. I worked at one. What’s happening to children is morally and medically appalling. – Jamie Reed, The FP
DEI Cult: The University of South Florida turns left-wing racialism into a psychological conditioning program. – Christopher Rufo, The City Journal
There Is More Inflation Complexity Ahead – Mohamed A. El-Erian, Project Syndicate
They Don’t Think Much of Biden – Matthew Continetti, Commentary
Conservatives Have to Beg for Mercy from the ‘Disinformation’ Industry – Jeffrey Blehar, National Review
Meet the Liberals Howling About Nikki Haley’s Indian Name and Heritage – Isaac Shor, Mediate
Shame on those who pushed Fetterman to the Senate – Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner
Mike Gallagher: A New Cold Warrior – Philip Wegmann, RealClearPolitics
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Thanks for reading!