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Trump unexpectedly faces a nightmare in the name of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive presidential candidate, swiftly dominated the Republican primaries and secured the minimum required number of delegates in record time. After the very first GOP caucus in Iowa in January, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, once considered Trump’s most serious challenger, suspended his presidential bid and endorsed Donald Trump. That left former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as the only contender for the Republican nomination before she suspended her bid in early March.

A likely rematch

In what appears to be a 2020 rematch this coming November, Trump has had the lead against President Joe Biden for months, until just recently. According to the most recent results combined from 688 surveys by Decision Desk HQ and The Hill’s ultimate hub, the race is currently tied. However, numerous surveys show that Trump is leading his Democratic opponent in the key battleground states, also known as swing states, that are expected to be decisive in the November general election.

The differences

One of the major differences between Trump’s and Biden’s campaigns is the amount of money they have managed to raise so far. Biden’s campaign has amassed significantly more funds than Trump’s, enabling them to consistently air costly advertisements, while Trump allocates a portion of his election funds to his legal representatives for the criminal cases he faces. However, the biggest obstacle for Trump on the road to the White House might be one of his former allies and later opponent, Nikki Haley.

The Nikki Haley problem for Trump

Despite bowing out of the race nearly two months ago, a notable chunk of GOP primary voters chose Haley. In Indiana on Tuesday, she secured support from about one-fifth of GOP primary voters, revealing dissatisfaction among dedicated Republicans with the former president, who is facing 88 felony counts. Similarly, in key swing states like Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, roughly 20% of Republican primary voters picked someone other than Trump

Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), an anti-Trump Republican, said that the primary results in his home state show how there is “still a very sizable portion of the Republican Party that’s insisting on a candidate who they can be proud of, on account of their character attributes and who promote a policy agenda consistent with basic [President Ronald] Reagan-era principles.”

Read also: “This is a reason to elect Donald Trump”: Texas, Florida most hit by Biden admin’s ‘program designed to flood the system’ with migrants

Despite getting out of the race nearly two months ago, a notable chunk of GOP primary voters chose Haley. And Trump struggles to win them.
Nikki Haley, Courtesy of Nikki Haley X official

Haley won’t help Trump in any way. At least for now.

Meanwhile, Haley shows no intention of backing Trump anytime soon. Before her withdrawal in March, she criticized her former boss for his behavior in office and mental state, branding him as “diminished” and “unhinged.” She’s withheld her endorsement, leaving Trump to face repeated setbacks in primary contests nationwide. Haley’s supporters tend to be more affluent, better educated, and more engaged in politics than typical Trump voters, going out of their way to vote in this extended primary.

The ‘perfect’ running mate

Potential GOP running mates include Senators Marco Rubio from Florida, Tim Scott from South Carolina, and J.D. Vance from Ohio, along with Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem—even after Noem faced backlash for revealing in a new book that she killed her hunting dog. Yet, none of these candidates is seen as likely to win over Haley’s most loyal supporters.

Despite getting out of the race nearly two months ago, a notable chunk of GOP primary voters chose Haley. And Trump struggles to win them.
Donald Trump, Courtesy of Donald Trump Instagram official account

Republicans have a plan

GOP senators believe that targeting disillusioned Haley voters should be a top priority for Trump, who holds a narrow lead in swing-state polls but is grappling with legal challenges that cast a shadow on his political future.

“I think the population we need to be going after is this 17% of people that are not voting for President Trump in a primary even though Nikki is not even in the primary,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) said Wednesday, referring to Haley’s share of the vote in Pennsylvania’s GOP primary last month. “I think he needs to bring a person that’s going to complement him and bring those people to the table.”

Mike Pompeo’s name emerges

Marshall suggested former Kansas Congressman and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as someone who meets the right criteria. He believes a group of Republicans is playing the long game and wants to know who’s set to lead after Trump. As such, whoever Trump selects will likely be seen as a frontrunner for the next president. Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina encouraged the Trump campaign to study the recent Indiana primary results and “see which demographics chose Nikki Haley over the president.”

“I’d be instructed by that in my solution,” he added.

Read also: Almost impossible: Biden, Democrats place risky bets on Florida and North Carolina against Trump

Haley’s name on the ticket might change everything

Voters who rejected Trump might return to the GOP if he selects a moderate vice-presidential candidate resembling Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Trump’s initial U.N. ambassador. However, Haley has shown no interest in joining the ticket, and it’s unlikely that she’ll change her stance in the months ahead.

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