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OPINION: For Haley, winning may not be everything

by CHUCK MALLOY/Guest Opinion
| February 29, 2024 12:20 PM

Dave Leroy, a former Idaho lieutenant governor and attorney general, is a co-chair of Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign in Idaho. He says the former U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina governor has the credentials and “prescription” for a successful presidency.

But as Leroy sees it, Haley’s value to the Republican Party goes beyond racking up primary victories (she just lost in her home state of South Carolina), or even securing the party’s nomination.

“And you don’t have to attack Donald Trump to support her,” Leroy says. “Success for Nikki Haley is contained within three goals. She’s the nominee in waiting if Trump, for whatever reason, is unable to be on the ballot in November and she is the leading candidate for president in 2028, with a strong vision for both the nation and the party.”

A third, and the one that probably would cause the candidate to cringe, is that she would be a heck of a candidate for vice president — with Trump heading the ticket.

A vice presidential bid could be a tough one. She has described the former president as too old, “unhinged” and a certain election loser in November. It would be difficult for Haley to walk back on those comments. But in the last Democratic primary campaign, Kamala Harris talked about Joe Biden’s ties to segregationists … and look where they are. A Trump-Haley ticket wouldn’t be the first time that the seemingly improbable became possible.

“Politics make strange bedfellows,” Leroy said, chuckling. “There are two things that are almost never true in politics. One is when somebody says, ‘I’m in it to win it.’ Well, nine Republican candidates have dropped out, so that’s not true. Another is, ‘I will never pick (fill in the blank) as my running mate.’”

Leroy well remembers Ronald Reagan picking George Bush as his vice president, after Bush dismissed Reagan’s fiscal plan as “voodoo economics.” Reagan was not chummy with Bush at the time, but correctly figured that Bush gave the Republican ticket the strongest chance of winning.

According to Leroy, Haley adds strength to the party — and he hopes she stays in regardless of what happens in the Idaho Republican caucus, or Super Tuesday states.

“Nikki Haley outlasted nine competitors to be the next to last ‘man’ standing in this race, so there’s nothing wrong with continuing to the convention,” Leroy said. “If she can accumulate a sufficient number of delegates, even if it’s a minority, she can have a voice at the convention. She can have a platform and make the case for a broad-based, viable and inclusive GOP that will have a bright future. And I think she can bring the party and the country with her.”

Leroy — as a former attorney general and prosecutor — has mixed feelings about Trump’s legal woes. “Many of these lawsuits are political prosecutions, but unfortunately, many of them also have some basis with his actions or inactions. I’m not going to predict the outcome of any of these cases, but none of these cases will be finally decided prior to the time that the votes are cast (in November).”

So far, the legal proceedings have worked in Trump’s favor. But momentum in politics can change rapidly and Republicans could look at poll numbers that show Haley beating Biden convincingly. 

“Polls have consistently shown her beating Biden by 15-17 percentage points. It seems like a good bet would be on the fastest horse in the race,” he says. Polls also show that roughly 70 percent of voters do not want to see a Biden-Trump rematch. Haley, at the moment, is the only one standing in the way of that dreadful sequel.

Leroy is hoping for party unity, if that is at all possible in this political climate.

“If it’s Trump’s victory, then hooray for us. If it’s Haley’s victory, then hooray for us,” Leroy said. “We need a broad-based, viable and inclusive GOP, and she represents that, and her continued campaign gives her a role in achieving that.”

Obviously, Leroy comes from the old school of politics — where concepts such as “winning” or “unity” came into play. But for Republicans, there’s wisdom to much of what he says.

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Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.