Nikki Haley could be the last, best chance for Republicans to unite against Trump before he steamrolls the GOP presidential field – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

Nikki Haley could be the last, best chance for Republicans to unite against Trump before he steamrolls the GOP presidential field

Former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina.

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Former President Trump remains well ahead of his fellow Republican presidential contenders.
But Nikki Haley is in a solid position in both GOP statewide polling and general election matchups.
As other candidates leave the race, Haley’s viability as a top Trump alternative will likely strengthen.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign is on the upswing.

Recent polling points to her competitiveness with President Joe Biden in a potential general election matchup.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who was long thought to be the biggest threat to former President Donald Trump’s quest for the GOP nomination, is far behind the ex-president in polling, and even worse, is slipping even further, fast.

Meanwhile, Haley’s stock may be low, but very importantly it’s up: she’s averaging around 8% in the FiveThirtyEight GOP polling average, up from 3% at the beginning of August. As the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary quickly approaches, lagging candidates are likely to bow out of the race, setting up a more direct race with Trump.

How could Haley become the candidate who actually threatens Trump’s lead?

Rising, if slim support among GOP voters

In polling conducted earlier this year, many Republicans were unfamiliar with Haley despite her high-profile stint as Ambassador to the United Nations under Trump from 2017 to 2018.

Unlike other GOP candidates in the race at the time, Haley had low unfavorable ratings and a sizable bloc of respondents indicated that they were unfamiliar with her — giving her substantial room to improve her standing in the eyes of likely primary voters.

In the Morning Consult survey conducted from September 29 through October 1, after the second debate, 49% of potential GOP primary voters had a favorable impression of Haley, compared to 20% who had a negative opinion; 15% of respondents stated that they still had never heard of the former governor.

Haley remains on positive ground with likely primary voters, and in a slew of recent statewide polls — after debates in which she appears to have made a good impression — she’s been steadily gaining ground.

In on Public Opinion Strategies poll of South Carolina, Trump led the GOP pack with 53% support among strong and probable supporters, while Haley was in second place with 18% support.

Haley speaks at a campaign event in Clive, Iowa, on September 30, 2023.

AP Photo/Meg Kinnard

A Public Opinion Strategies survey of New Hampshire had Trump ahead with 44% support, with Haley in second place with 17% support.

A new USA TODAY/Boston Globe/Suffolk poll of New Hampshire showed Trump in the lead with 49% support, while Haley earned 19% support, leapfrogging over DeSantis, who sat at 10%.

And in one of the biggest spotlights on Haley’s electability argument, she led Biden by 5 points (46%-41%) in a recently-released NBC poll, compared to Trump’ tie (46%-46%) with the president and the commander-in-chief’s slight lead (46%-45%) over DeSantis.

DeSantis is still in the game, but no longer the top alternative

Many GOP donors leery of another Trump White House bid were eager to see DeSantis jump into the 2024 contest.

As a conservative who was easily reelected to the Florida governorship last fall, leading a GOP wave in that state when the party didn’t fare as well nationally, many high-profile names in the party felt DeSantis would quickly give Trump a real run for the nomination.

But so far, that has not been the case, as DeSantis has generally been stuck in second-and-third place in most national and state polls, with Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina having also nipped at the governor’s heels in the early-nominating states.

As DeSantis has seen his standing become much more muddled, arguably Haley stands to benefit most, as she has so far avoided wading into many of the the culture wars that the Florida governor has taken on with the Walt Disney Company and his continued battles over the teaching of race and education in the Sunshine State.

Former President Donald Trump before a speech in Anaheim, Calif., on September 29, 2023.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

In recent weeks, DeSantis has been banking much of his efforts on winning Iowa, hoping a victory in the Midwestern state can give him much-needed momentum headed into the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries. But Trump is making an effort not to get caught flat-footed in Iowa, and despite his strength among conservatives, he has ruffled some feathers among evangelicals in recent months regarding several controversial comments on abortion.

A 1-on-1 matchup could truly shake up the race

With the Iowa caucuses being held on January 15, 2024, Republican candidates still have time to make their case for the nomination — but the window is closing.

For candidates mired in the low single digits, several of them may opt to leave the race before the end of 2023.

As long as the field remains fractured, with several potential non-Trump alternatives in the race, the former president can essentially maintain a status quo dynamic as he looks to cruise to the nomination — basically ignoring the field as he continues to campaign for the nomination and contend with his multiple criminal indictments.

But if Trump were to say only be running against Haley, he would likely run into a bit more turbulence than if his adversaries for the nomination remain legion.

Trump would still be favored to win many of the early-nomination contests, but Haley would also likely consolidate much of the support of candidates exiting the race.

And given Trump’s continued legal challenges, which have the potential to sideline him for key stretches of the campaign, she would also have more opportunities to continue making the case for her candidacy.

Haley could end up being the candidate who makes Trump sweat a bit.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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