Nikki Haley's Surge is Real. Crying About It Doesn't Negate It.
I swear to you people, the online DeSantis fans have become as thin-skinned as the diehard Trump fans. Mention Nikki Haley’s rising poll numbers, and they rush to their apologetics like the Trump fans when you tell them 2020 wasn’t stolen.
“But see,” they being to explain, “it isn’t real and the polls are rigged anyway with an anti-DeSantis bias.”
Look, here is the reality. Nikki Haley is rising in the polling nationally, in New Hampshire, and in Iowa.
Here’s more reality. DeSantis has lost the wind in his sails. Haley is gaining on him, and all DeSantis can do is try to sink her, but that hurts DeSantis too.
His campaign has not figured out how to regain momentum. That’s the reality. DeSantis fans away from the campaign and too on Twitter must accept reality in order to change it. But it sounds more like they’re in “if only Alvin Bragg hadn’t indicted” mode with no strategy to try to change the fundamentals of the race, even as the campaign itself is making adjustments.
The DeSantis Twitter fans seem to be waiting for a lightning bolt to take out Trump, resigned to otherwise lose so long as they don’t lose as bad as anyone else so they can harumph at a Trump defeat in 2024 with “Should have gone with DeSantis.” Instead, they would have you believe Nikki Haley’s rise is a creation of the media and not real. Just ignore the polling, the fundraising, the growing crowd size, etc.
This happens every time a candidate starts to sink. Their fans blame the media, claim the polls are wrong, and watch their candidate lose. “But Donald Trump isn’t spending money to attack Nikki Haley like he is Ron DeSantis.”
Yeah, and DeSantis spent jack on Haley until she started going up in the polls. That DeSantis is attacking Haley means his team knows she is gaining ground, which, despite the online apologists, means this is not a media creation but a real thing.
If the DeSantis fans want to change the dynamics of the race, maybe stop yelling at those of us who are telling them what’s going on and start addressing the underlying problems that have left DeSantis stagnant.
Here’s the national polling average from RealClearPolitics, and you’ll note Haley is going up and DeSantis, charitably, is not.
Now, let’s do Iowa, where DeSantis continues to gain ground slowly, but Haley is gaining too.
Now, here’s New Hampshire.
Here’s some more reality for everyone.
Haley’s surge, for now, helps Trump more than her. He’s already, in every poll, in the dominant position, and some DeSantis supporters will start to go back to him if DeSantis doesn’t get wind back in his sails.
And here’s even more reality. If DeSantis drops out, a significant group of his supporters will go to Trump. If Haley drops out, an insignificant group of her supporters will go to Trump. Pay attention to the last part here. Haley’s supporters come from the non-Trump wing of the party. DeSantis’s is more blended with Trump and non-Trump supporters. It’ll be harder, but not impossible, for Haley to build a coalition to stop Trump than it would be for DeSantis, most likely, just given the present psychographic splits in the GOP. But, for the DeSantis fans, “harder” really does not mean “impossible.” Haley could fashion a winning coalition and they shouldn’t be dismissive of her willingness to try. She did just that in her first run as Governor of South Carolina against the entire GOP establishment.
Right now, given the above, everything is coming up Trump, and Trump is more likely to be the nominee right now. The others will have to rely on external factors taking Trump out — like criminal convictions, bankruptcy, or God Almighty intervening.
DeSantis and Haley were each on a path to hurt Trump. DeSantis could win Iowa and Haley could win New Hampshire. With Haley now rising in the polling in Iowa, DeSantis has to invest more resources there.
However, and pay attention to this, Haley does best with independent voters who will not be playing the Iowa Caucus unless she can convert them and get them there. High polling in Iowa does not matter. Caucus participation does. But trending upwards in the polls forces DeSantis to respond to ensure the polling does not translate into caucus participation. Independent voters who get really enthusiastic about Haley can and will register on the day of the caucuses as Republicans to support her.
That limits DeSantis’s resources to grow in New Hampshire, where Haley’s polling average puts her in second place.
Haley, meanwhile, has to hold and grow her position in New Hampshire and risks a spillover collapse if DeSantis takes her out in Iowa. She needs to defend herself, but that costs her resources, too.
Trump is the winner in all of this. He needs huge resources in the general election that he won’t have because of his legal troubles. But in the primary, he has 100% name identification, and half the GOP loves him right now.
If Haley gets out, her supporters will probably be divided among others, keeping DeSantis from getting ahead of Trump.
If DeSantis gets out, his supporters will probably go mostly to Trump.
So both Haley and DeSantis, by staying in with the present dynamics, hurt each other. And either, getting out now, do the other no real favors.
DeSantis can and might still win Iowa because of the caucuses. The real good news for DeSantis is the “second choice” question among caucus-goers. That works to his benefit. Caucus goers normally are forced to go with their second choice as the dynamics of Caucus night shake-up. If DeSantis pulls that off, Trump gets hurt because he is no longer inevitable. But the resources spent to keep Haley down take from DeSantis’s resources to build himself up. And Trump is again spending more against DeSantis than anything else to stifle DeSantis’s upward momentum.
That’s just the reality of the race right now, folks. Spare me your apologetics that this is a media-created phenomenon, not real, etc.
A DeSantis-Haley or a Haley-DeSantis team-up is not going to happen either. That’s hysterical talk to be having in October of 2023.
So Trump gains in all the scenarios except for the external events scenario that takes Trump out — largely through divine or judicial intervention.
In the meantime, you’ll note I have not mentioned any other candidate.
As much as I like Chris Christie and Tim Scott, I do not see a viable path for either man. Doug Burgum and Asa Hutchinson never had one.
Ramaswamy is the only candidate to have his negatives skyrocket in the race over the past two months. He is a proxy for Trump anyway. Ramaswamy’s entire campaign is to be the turd in the punchbowl to hurt anyone not named Trump. So he won’t get out, but he won’t get traction.
Everyone not named Haley and DeSantis should get out.
The only way to change the dynamics in the race that help Trump is for the field to clear and DeSantis and Haley to be the clear alternatives without having to jockey with others in Iowa and New Hampshire. It really is remarkable how everyone claiming they can and should beat Trump help him by staying in.
But the race is, for real, a three-person race: Trump and, barely, DeSantis and Haley. Reducing the field to just those three is the only way momentum might shift in ways that do not force Haley and DeSantis to rely on externalities to stop Trump.
Sixty percent of Iowa voters want someone other than Trump. A crowded field makes it harder for that sixty percent to consolidate, and only Haley and DeSantis have the resources and polling to harness the power of that consolidation.