What Nikki Haley Got Right
State of the Union: And then there were two.
After a third-place finish in Iowa, former South Carolina Governor Nimarata “Nikki” Haley declared, “Tonight, Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race!”
Some poked fun at Haley for obvious reasons—a two-person race usually doesn’t involve a third-place finisher. I, on the other hand, although rarely one to pass up on hitting Haley, refrained from this particular line of attack because I thought she was right.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s result in Iowa was simply not good enough to carry on. DeSantis spent exorbitant sums in Iowa only to finish about thirty points behind the former President Donald Trump. He finished only two points in front of Haley, who opted for investing substantially in New Hampshire rather than Iowa. At least, that was the case until the final month leading up to the caucuses when the Haley campaign saw a glimmer of hope for a second place finish and decided to surge resources into the Hawkeye state.
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What did surprise me, however, was the fact that it took DeSantis until Sunday to officially suspend his campaign. As I said in a Twitter space hosted by online personality Mario Nawfal on the night of the Iowa Caucus, I thought that DeSantis would end his campaign within 72 hours of the results if the campaign, and the donors behind it, did not see a way forward. If DeSantis carried on past the 72 hour mark, I figured he’d at least stay in until Nevada. DeSantis campaign had very little invested in New Hampshire, and a distant third place showing in New Hampshire was already baked into the cake. In the Nevada Caucus, however, DeSantis had what he was supposedly waiting for: a one-on-one contest with Trump.
Nevada is doing something weird this cycle. The Silver state is hosting a primary run by the state government and a caucus run by the Republican party that will allocate delegates for the GOP nomination. Haley was the only candidate out of the big three to choose the primary over the caucus. Meanwhile, DeSantis and Trump were going to square off in the primary. If I had to guess, it took a little longer than 72 hours for the DeSantis campaign to get some internal polling back that showed DeSantis’s second-place finish in Iowa did nothing to generate momentum in Nevada or South Carolina. Sad. I could have told them that for free, but apparently the DeSantis campaign excelled in the art of wasting money. DeSantis was left with two options: Get on the Trump train, or get run over by it. He was wise to choose the latter.
So, Haley was right: The GOP primary is now a two-horse race, but it’s Secretariat versus Zippy Chippy. Seems she’ll find out the hard way which horse she is.