Nikki Haley seems to have gone MIA recently, leaving the press with nothing to do but criticize her for not removing the confederate flag from South Carolina’s State House lawn soon enough.
Last week was the last time Haley made headlines. The media salivated at her failed attempt to garner applause in a New Hampshire campaign event for a comment about transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney.
The press regarded this as an epic failure. Some very left outlets interpreted her factual statement as an “anti-trans joke” that simply bombed.
But as was the reaction to the DeSantis presidential nomination launch on Twitter, Haley’s flub was (barely) news for 24 hours and has since been long forgotten.
On the other hand, Haley herself doesn’t seem to be making any particularly memorable moves, campaigning in the shadow of the two men who currently dominate the GOP primary race.
“Slow and Steady Wins the Race”
However, the lack of media attention doesn’t seem to be overly concerning for Haley.
Haley told USA Today on Thursday, “This is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. I’m not concerned about touching as many voters as we can and watching that go. It’s slow and steady wins the race.”
That certainly seems to be the approach of the former ambassador to the United Nations since launching her campaign earlier this year, the first to do so after Donald Trump.
Haley has been running a mostly grassroots campaign with a relatively strong budget. Haley’s campaign said it raised $11 million through the end of March.
Compared to his 2020 bid and push to overturn the election result, which raised $250 million combined, Trump’s 2024 campaign funds seem anemic. According to one report the Trump campaign and its affiliated committee had less than $7 million banked.
Ron DeSantis took in over $8 million in the first hour of announcing his candidacy on Twitter. This is in addition to what is already reported to be a $33 million budget.
While DeSantis has been upping his local appearances of late, particularly on radio and alternative formats, Haley has spent the past four months making lots of stops in smaller towns with smaller crowds like the “Politics and Eggs” event at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire.
According to Haley’s campaign, she has hosted 28 grassroots events in New Hampshire and 22 events in Iowa.
Despite her optimistic outlook, the latest polls don’t reflect the needle moving much for the only female republican candidate. She is pulling in only about 3% of the republican vote, far behind the top two men.
Haley’s policy positions are irrefutably conservative, relatively indistinguishable from either Trump or DeSantis, with the exception of abortion. She has been more willing to outwardly proclaim her pro-life stance than either of her main male rivals.
This is a risky move considering that a presidential win often comes down to white suburban women who, on the whole, tend to be more pro-choice.
She has stated she would support a federal abortion ban, even though she is confident such a measure would never pass Congress.
Still, her position may harm her chances with more socially liberal conservatives. Haley signed an abortion ban after 20 weeks during her tenure as South Carolina governor.
Despite resistance, Haley claims abortion is an issue that is “incredibly personal” to her (her husband Michael was adopted) and not a stance she can or will alter simply due to political expediency.
“I can’t suddenly change my pro-life position because I’m campaigning in New Hampshire.”
This is discernible from DeSantis and Trump’s abortion positions. Both men have punted the issue to the states, claiming that while they may have their personal beliefs, they are irrelevant given the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
DeSantis signed an even stricter abortion ban than Haley into law in Florida earlier in April limiting the procedure to just 6 weeks. However, he seems to be keenly aware a presidential bid requires him to lean more to the middle to woo conservative women who are not adamant pro-lifers. The GOP’s newest candidate has been more moderate in his stance since his campaign kicked off last week.
A leaked audio clip from a DeSantis donor strategy meeting held in Miami earlier this month confirmed DeSantis’s shift.
“His position is while he understands that there are ways that the federal government can be helpful to preserve life, the best way that you will preserve life is at the state level,” said a strategist.
Trump has remained relatively vague and declined to say whether he would support a federal abortion ban, angering some on the religious right.
Haley is as willing as Florida’s governor to engage in the culture war, although sometimes on opposite sides of her new rival. She propositioned Disney to move the happiest place on earth to South Carolina, snubbing DeSantis’s wholehearted rejection of Disney’s support of LGBTQIA ideology and expanded offices.
However, for the most part, Haley also decries the conduct of gender activists, as evidenced in her jab at trans activist Dylan Mulvaney at the previously mentioned Politics and Eggs event in New Hampshire.
“Make no mistake: that is a guy, dressed up like a girl, making fun of women. Women don’t act like that.”
Still, it’s unlikely abortion and gender issues will create enough of a stir for Haley to turn her small wave of support into the tsunami she needs to outpace her male competitors.