The Faux Haley Boomlet

The press really needs to stop trying to make fetch happen.

USA Today’s Susan Page (“Exclusive poll: Nikki Haley surges, nearly ties Ron DeSantis as the alternative to Trump“) is the latest in a recent trend.

Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley has surged nationally in a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, challenging a faltering Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the top alternative to Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination.

Haley’s support has risen to 11% of registered voters who plan to vote in GOP primaries or caucuses, up from 4% in the USA TODAY/Suffolk poll taken in June and just one percentage point below DeSantis. His 12% standing was a steep fall from his 23% support four months ago.

Trump continues to dominate the field, backed by 58%, up 10 points.

The survey of 309 Republican and Republican-leaning voters, taken Tuesday through Friday by landline and cell phone, has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points.

Haley already has edged narrowly ahead of DeSantis In New Hampshire and South Carolina, which hold early contests on the primary calendar.

The two contenders have been targeting each other, sparring in public over Mideast policy and competing in private with appeals to major Republican donors.

Last week, the Florida governor suggested Haley as president would admit to the United States refugees from war-torn Gaza, and a political action committee allied with DeSantis bought ads making the allegation. Haley said she didn’t support the idea and accused DeSantis of distorting her previous remarks.

I’ve noted several of these pieces lately, starting with the George Will column I lampooned a couple of weeks back. Other examples:

  • Presidential hopeful Nikki Haley is having a moment in New Hampshire. Now comes the hard part.” (WBUR New Hampshire, Oct 19)
  • DeSantis-Haley Rivalry Heats Up, With Attacks Focused on Israel” (NYT, Oct 20)
  • Bill Maher hypes Nikki Haley as a viable alternative to Trump: ‘She’s having a moment’” (Fox News, Oct 20)
  • Editorial: One GOP candidate can defeat Trump. Clear the field for Haley.” (Charleston Post and Carrier, Oct 21)
  • DeSantis-Nikki Haley feud heats up, a possible new Democratic challenger for Biden and other trail takeaways” (ABC News, Oct 21)

First of all, Donald Trump is at 59 percent in the RealClearPolitics average and 57 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average. Nikki Haley is in third place in both aggregators, at 7.8 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively. Absent Trump’s death or incarceration —and maybe even then!—he’s going to win the nomination.

Second, it’s not at all obvious why the—let’s call it 58 percent—of Republican primary voters who want Trump would suddenly choose a relative normie like Haley if Trump were somehow removed from the equation. Their support would presumably be more likely to shift to DeSantis (12.7%/13.5%), Ramaswamy (5.1%/5.3%) or some MAGA candidate not yet in the race.

Do I think Mike Pence, Tim Scott, and Doug Burgum should go ahead and drop out of the race? Probably. Their presence serves no obvious purpose. Chris Christie isn’t going to win the nomination, either, but he’s at least the best Republican attack dog going after Trump.

Would I be happy if Haley, a qualified, non-crazy candidate, were to somehow magically become the 2024 nominee? Sure. Voters deserve a choice between two candidates who don’t want to wreck the country and aren’t demonstrable psychopaths.

But it ain’t gonna happen. It’s just not. Maybe in 2028. But certainly not in 2024.

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, Media, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. wr says:

    This is the mirror-image of the press’ desperate pleas for someone, anyone, to primary Biden. They’re desperate for drama and for a story that can put them where they know they belong, in the center of the action.

  2. Kathy says:

    I wonder if Ford, Carter, or Bush the elder had run again respectively in 1980, 1984, or 1996, whether they’d have also been the overwhelming favorites.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy: Almost certainly not. Hell, all three got primaried as incumbents running for re-election the previous cycle.

  4. Rick DeMent says:


    Funny thing is Bush I was the overwhelming favorite at the beginning of 1992 hot off successes in the first gulf war. In fact many leading Democrats, including Mario Cuomo, Dick Gephardt, and Al Gore decided not to run. There was even a SNL skit were all the Democrats had a debate over why they should not be nominated with the actor playing Cuomo standing at the lectern proudly affirming that “I have mob ties!!!”.

    Then two things happened, the economy took a downturn and then H. Ross Perot launched a third-party bid which scrambled the electoral math. Unemployment surged to over 7% by election day and that was all she wrote.

  5. gVOR10 says:

    Didn’t we do this in 2016, the not Trump GOP du jour? Their job is to peddle papers. To peddle papers they need drama. With no D primary and an obviously meaningless R primary, they’ve got to really stretch for drama. Even to the point of pretending Nikki Haley has a chance.

    None of these people are going to get the nomination, probably not even veep, maybe a cabinet position or less. I can’t see any of them as veep. The only evidence in favor of one of them becoming veep is Trump’s statement that he won’t pick any of them.

    I see rationalizations that they want to be in line if Trump somehow drops out. I see surprisingly little speculation as to how exactly that could happen. Conviction would not force him to withdraw. Removal under the 14th Amendment is legally possible, but frankly seems unlikely. Would incarceration even remove him, or dim his popularity with the MAGA? Could Fani Willis write an enforceable state plea deal that would keep him out. Jack Smith? There is, of course, the possibility of health issues or inescapably obvious mental degradation. Seems to me Trump’s going to hang in there hoping to be able to pardon himself of at least the federal charges as long as he’s able to.

  6. Kylopod says:


    I wonder if Ford, Carter, or Bush the elder had run again respectively in 1980, 1984, or 1996, whether they’d have also been the overwhelming favorites.

    There is actually some evidence on this question when it comes to Ford. He teased a run during the 1980 cycle. He never entered the race, but he was included in several polls–and in most of them, Reagan was still leading.

  7. Kylopod says:


    Didn’t we do this in 2016, the not Trump GOP du jour?

    Trump’s lead is far stronger than it was in 2016. Throughout 2015, while he was pretty consistently in the lead from the moment he entered the race, he never commanded more than about a third of the vote. And in the primaries themselves, he didn’t win an absolute majority anywhere until nearly three months into the race. Furthermore, several of his rivals did win states. It’s very likely Trump is going to do a full sweep of every primary and caucus in the country–which is highly unusual for a non-incumbent (the only previous non-incumbent candidate to achieve this feat was Al Gore in 2000–though of course he was the incumbent vp). I can’t imagine any of the other candidates beating him anywhere, even in their own home states. Trump will easily carry Florida, and he’ll not only carry SC but get a higher share of the vote than Haley and Scott combined.

  8. Kathy says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    I remember that. there were editorial cartoons of democrats reading death of Superman comics to see how he’s brought back to life. A lot of editorializing on how Bush won the war and lost the peace. And a lot more on that vein.

    What I also recall was a lot of chatter that Clinton’s had not really won, because he didn’t get a majority of the popular vote. That was true, though he did get the most votes. He also won the EC handily, without coming even close to an inversion.

    The Bush the elder situation does point to how Biden might lose, too. Even if that happens, gods forbid, I think he’d still get a higher percentage of the popular vote than Benito.

    Unless we’re at rates of unemployment like those of the Great Depression in the 30s.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR10: He probably thinks he can pardon himself for the GA charges too.

  10. Charley in Cleveland says:

    Apparently the democracy v. nihilism aspect of 2024 has been deemed too boring, or perhaps too complicated, to cover by the Beltway media. The horse race and the “Biden is too old” meme stories practically write themselves, so why delve into reality based substance? The established media has utterly failed in its 4th Estate function of educating the electorate and holding public officials to account. The deeply corrupt, mentally unstable, and likely mentally ill Trump has been normalized, and there’s more amusement than disgust with the fact that a group of Republican clowns has brought Congress to a halt and will shut down the government next month. That the media is looking for stories in the weeds of the GOP primary speaks volumes about editorial priorities.

  11. Tony W says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I think he would just plan to ignore the conviction.

    My guess is that he will force Georgia to extradite him for imprisonment after trying him in absentia, and he’ll fight such extradition – essentially making it a federal case with the SCOTUS ruling on it.

    And if he’s a sitting president, SCOTUS will be deferential.