Ron DeSantis’ exit from the presidential race wasn’t a surprise after his seven-month slide in the polls, but part of the Florida governor’s rationale for rejecting Nikki Haley to endorse Donald Trump shows the spell the former president continues to cast on the Republican Party.
“He has my endorsement because we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear — a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism — that Nikki Haley represents,” DeSantis said in his exit video on Sunday. “The days of putting Americans last, of kowtowing to large corporations, of caving to woke ideology, are over.”
“Nikki Haley is Loved by Democrats, Wall Street & Globalists,” according to a massive backdrop at Trump’s rally in Manchester, N.H., on Saturday.
Only in Trump’s Republican Party is a 77-year-old politician who lost a presidential race and control of both chambers of Congress during his tenure viewed as the future.
Haley, 52, is one of the most accomplished women in the Republican Party today. She was a two-term governor and ambassador to the United Nations who also happens to be a woman of color. Republicans like to say they don’t play identity politics until they celebrate gaining House seats in 2020 and winning the majority in 2022 with candidates that look a lot like Haley.
The attacks against her aren’t even coherent. If Haley is a “globalist,” why did Trump appoint her to be one of the country’s chief diplomats as ambassador to the U.N.? Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance said Haley was “totally in bed with lobbyists” in South Carolina, which would then question Trump’s wisdom in subsequently appointing her to his Cabinet.
It’s comical that Haley is now perceived as an establishment hack. In 2004, she defeated the longest-serving member of the South Carolina state House at the time in a GOP primary. As a state representative, Haley defeated U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, then-state Attorney General (now Gov.) Henry McMaster, and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer in the 2010 primary. And it wasn’t even close, even though it went to a runoff.
But now Haley is an outcast within the GOP because she committed the unforgivable sin: disloyalty to Trump. In the last few weeks, she’s ramped up her criticism of Trump and said that she would not accept an invitation to join the ticket as vice presidential nominee. That presumably compounded the sin by insulting Trump with the insinuation that she was too good to be his running mate.
It’s ironic that one of the final episodes between DeSantis, Haley and Trump involved debates. There was the night DeSantis and Haley shared the stage for a pre-Iowa debate while Trump simultaneously had a stage to himself with a Fox News town hall. But it was the first debate on Aug. 23 that revealed the kowtowing.
That debate featured seven Republican men, all wearing red ties. It’s hard to believe the lone woman on the Milwaukee stage that night, Haley, wouldn’t have been wearing a red tie if she was Nick Haley. The red tie is the uniform of the Trump Republican Party.
Maybe I’m overreacting about a single article of clothing and had forgotten about the fashion trend. But it’s a post-Trump phenomenon.
In August 2015, well before Trump had secured the 2016 nomination, just six of the 16 GOP candidates who took the stage in the varsity and JV debates wore red ties, and some of those weren’t the standard-issue, solid red Trump version. Some of the candidates dared to wear blue, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz went as far to wear a tie with stripes.
Going back even further to the June 2011 Republican presidential debate, none of the six men on the stage wore a solid red tie. Blue seemed to be the most popular choice, and Herman Cain wore yellow.
Meanwhile, even after being embarrassed by Trump and driven out of this race, DeSantis endorsed him, wearing a solid red tie.
Haley is neither perfect nor the savior of the Republican Party, but the slash-and-burn tactics against her now are short-sighted and unnecessary. She seems like the type of candidate who should be a part of the future of a GOP if the party wants to expand its ranks. But this is still Trump’s Republican Party, even though assuming it can succeed after him is unclear.
No one has proven they can carry the mantle and deliver the message in the same way that Trump can. Trump’s message delivered by someone else comes off as colder and meaner than the original. Even Trump isn’t quite the same as he was in 2016. His message appears more focused on his legal issues rather than the populism and Democrat-bashing that helped him win the first time.
But Trump’s electoral performance isn’t as strong as some Republicans might believe. Hillary Clinton arguably lost the 2016 race more than Trump won it. If Trump wins again in 2024, it will be primarily because President Joe Biden loses it. And, in that scenario, Democrats would be positioned for big victories in the 2026 midterms.
The ostracizing of Haley is a good example of how Trump’s personal agenda is more important than the party. She’s clearly one of his best potential running mates. But that isn’t a priority for Trump’s GOP.
Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.