Tomorrow, the Republican primary commences in the US election. The inaugural state casting its vote is Iowa. Currently, Trump enjoys an unequivocal advantage in the primary, surpassing Haley, his closest rival, by a substantial 50 points. Unless Trump is barred from candidacy, his ascension as the Republican nominee seems foregone.
Notwithstanding Haley’s incapacity to surpass Trump, she remains a formidable candidate for the deputy position. Should Trump opt for Haley as his running mate, a symbiotic effect would ensue, effectively appealing to centrist voters and ethnic minorities. This presents Trump’s sole prospect of victory.
The erstwhile US ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Governor, Haley, stands as the most formidable contender alongside Trump. She garners support from Reagan Republicans, constituting the party’s establishment. Haley commands a party approval rating of 12%, eclipsing the optimistic expectations for Florida Governor De Santis.
While a 12% approval rate falls short of challenging Trump directly, Haley can vie for the deputy candidacy with the backing of moderate voters. Current polls reveal Trump outpaces Haley by 28 percentage points in the initial primary state but only maintains a 14-point lead in the subsequent state. If Christie, aligned with the anti-Sichuan faction, withdraws post-Iowa, Haley could consolidate 11% of moderate voters, narrowing the gap with Trump to 3-4 points in New Hampshire.
Should Haley perform well, or even secure a victory in New Hampshire through a strategic comeback, it could dramatically alter the electoral landscape. Momentum plays a pivotal role in primaries, and Haley’s triumph would mobilize more Reagan Republicans, intensifying pressure on Trump. This could extend the election timeline to at least Super Tuesday on March 5, introducing significant variables.
While the decline of Reagan Republicans within the party suggests Haley may not ultimately defeat Trump, her tenacity will leave an indelible impression on Trump and Republican elites, amplifying the likelihood of her becoming Trump’s running mate.
If Haley assumes the role of Trump’s deputy, it would complement his deficiencies and substantially bolster his chances against Biden.
Throughout American history, candidates have pursued two distinct strategies to secure electoral victory. The first involves continual positional adjustments to attract centrist voters and expand the voter base. This approach, long the staple of general elections, has maintained a modest gap between the Democratic and Republican parties, fostering political convergence and averting extreme ideologies.
However, a side effect of this strategy is a decline in voter trust, leading to political apathy as politicians fail to fulfill campaign promises. The sub-60% turnout rate in US elections attests to this consequence.
The second strategy involves maintaining extreme ideologies to energize the base and secure victory through increased voter turnout. Trump embraced the latter, steadfastly adhering to his positions and catering to the core constituency. This allowed Trump to exert prolonged control over the Republican Party, even in defeat, maintaining his influence.
This strategy, however, is not without its flaws. The results of the 2016, 2018, 2020, and 2022 elections indicate that Trump’s voter base is not as robust as that of Democratic opponents. The victories in 2016 were tinged with flukes and proved challenging to replicate.
The remedy lies in selecting a capable deputy to complement Trump. Haley, as an establishment Republican, woman, and minority, perfectly addresses Trump’s shortcomings. If all Reagan Republicans rally behind Trump, alongside swing women and Asian voters, Trump’s chances would significantly improve. Additionally, Haley’s selection as deputy provides a sharp contrast to Biden’s deputy Harris, further undermining Biden’s team morale.
Biden chose Harris in 2020 based on her female, minority identity, unaware of her subsequent unpopularity. Harris has become Biden’s liability due to a lack of personal rapport and exclusion by other aides.
Trump, with his discernment, can recognize Haley’s value. Trump’s pragmatism, evident in his past alliances, indicates that if Haley proves her worth, her current anti-Sichuan stance would be overlooked.
Haley’s obstacle to becoming Trump’s deputy isn’t Trump himself but rather the fervent Sichuan fans dedicated to Trump and the “MAGA” cause.
In 2020, Trump encountered difficulty in controlling the “Sichuan powder” faction. Despite endorsing vaccine research and development, Trump faced resistance from a significant number of “anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists” among his supporters.
Encouraging vaccination at rallies resulted in unanimous boos, forcing Trump to backtrack. This incident compelled Trump to navigate cautiously around his fan base, revealing his limitations.
Sichuan fans, considering Haley a traitor to the MAGA cause, pose a substantial obstacle to her acceptance. They prefer a deputy akin to Trump, such as Ramswami, who has consistently supported Trump.
Trump faced a similar dilemma in 2016 when the party favored a complementary candidate. Whether he can persuade voters to accept Haley and the extent of risk he’s willing to take for a moderate deputy will be the focal point of this year’s election.
If Trump doesn’t choose Haley or opts for a MAGA-loyal deputy, it may pave the way for Mr. Biden’s victory.