The Last Day of the Faux Republican Primary
Two candidates enter. One candidate leaves.
BBC (“Nikki Haley finally gets her solo showdown with Donald Trump in New Hampshire“):
With Ron DeSantis suspending his presidential campaign on Sunday, Nikki Haley gets the one-on-one match-up with Donald Trump for which she’s been longing.
“At one point in this campaign, there were 14 of us running,” she says in an email fundraising pitch, sent out shortly after the DeSantis news broke.
“But today, it’s officially a two-person race between me and Donald Trump!”
Ms Haley’s showdown with Mr Trump in the state-by-state contest to choose a Republican presidential candidate may not turn out exactly as she hoped, however. The way the 14-person field has thinned of late has played out mostly to the former president’s advantage.
First, Mr DeSantis edged ahead of Ms Haley for second place in Iowa’s caucuses, denying her any substantial momentum boost heading into New Hampshire, which votes on Tuesday.
The day after Mr Trump’s huge win in Iowa, another presidential rival, Vivek Ramaswamy, withdrew from the race and endorsed Mr Trump, giving him an extra round of headlines.
Because he had otherwise not been in the news.
Now Mr DeSantis is out of the picture, as well. Like Mr Ramaswamy, he has endorsed Mr Trump, although with a bit less fervour. The Florida governor reserved most of his passion for Ms Haley – and not in a good way.
He called the former US ambassador to the UN part of “the old Republican guard of yesteryear – a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism”. It was a line of attack – Haley the elite-loving globalist – that has been the centrepiece of Mr Trump’s attack on his former Cabinet member over the past few days.
It took six days for the DeSantis campaign to churn through the stages of political grief and arrive at acceptance. But his decision to back out when he did, and the way he did, might have helped sealed Mr Trump’s victory.
That, and the fact that Trump has had more support from the Republican nominating electorate than all of the other candidates combined, surely had something to do with it.
Regardless, unless Haley somehow mounts a shocking win—or even a very close second—in New Hampshire, I don’t see what point there is in continuing the campaign. In 2016, it was at least plausible that the base might have united behind a “traditional” Republican candidate if the field had shaken out quickly enough. This time, it winnowed to two candidates after one contest. Alas, there was only one with a change to win all along.