On Wednesday, Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and UN ambassador, revealed that she will formally enter the 2024 Republican presidential primary at an event scheduled for February 15, making her the second candidate to enter the race, after her former boss, Donald Trump, who announced his candidacy last year.
The most interesting thing about the news, however, was not her planned candidacy. Haley has long been considered a potential national candidate and was previously considered as a potential running mate for both Mitt Romney in 2012 and then Donald Trump in 2016. The interesting thing about this development is Trump’s attitude towards Haley’s intention to run.
According to a report from CNN last week, Trump said that Haley called him to discuss her pending announcement and that he gave his blessing.
“I talked to her for a little while, I said, ‘Look, you know, go by your heart if you want to run,’” Trump said.
“She’s publicly said that ‘I would never run against my president, he was a great president,’” Trump added, which is as close he got to chastising her.
Trump also said he told Haley that she “should do it” and that he would welcome the competition.
This, of course, stands in stark contrast to Trump’s attitude about Ron DeSantis, the man he accused of being disloyal. “Ron would have not been governor if it wasn’t for me,” Trump said. “So when I hear he might run, I consider that very disloyal.” He also accused DeSantis of trying to “rewrite history” regarding his COVID pandemic response.
DeSantis has been the target of multiple attacks from Trump in recent months. While campaigning in Pennsylvania before the midterm elections, Trump referred to DeSantis as “Ron DeSanctimonious.” The night before Election Day, Trump threatened DeSantis not to run for president in 2024, calling it a bad idea.
“I don’t know if he is running. I think if he runs, he could hurt himself very badly. I really believe he could hurt himself badly,” Trump said. “I think he would be making a mistake, I think the base would not like it — I don’t think it would be good for the party.”
“Any of that stuff is not good — you have other people that possibly will run, I guess,” Trump added. “I don’t know if he runs. If he runs, he runs.”
Then Trump said that if DeSantis does decide to run, “I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering — I know more about him than anybody — other than, perhaps, his wife.”
Trump’s attitude toward DeSantis’s potential run versus his lack of a tantrum over Nikki Haley is further proof that Trump acknowledges that DeSantis is his biggest threat to the GOP nomination, while she is not. Most GOP primary polls show Trump ahead, some give DeSantis the edge, and typically the polls showing Trump ahead have DeSantis a close second. Even in Haley’s home state of South Carolina, 41% of GOP voters prefer Trump for the GOP nomination, compared to 12% who support Nikki Haley. Ron DeSantis even polls better in South Carolina than Nikki Haley, getting 31%. Nikki Haley’s candidacy, at this point, serves more as her reintroduction to the national stage and, in my opinion, an audition to be a vice presidential running mate.
So, Trump’s attacks on DeSantis feel more like an act of self-preservation. Trump has long made it clear he feels entitled to the GOP nomination, and there’s only one reason why he’d consider DeSantis running an act of disloyalty, but not Nikki Haley.