Nikki Haley, now second in polls for the Republican presidential nomination, is being portrayed as a broadly appealing, pragmatic alternative to Donald Trump. In fact, she’s a proud union buster with a bloodthirsty neoconservative streak, not a moderate.

by Luke Savage, Jacobin

Nikki Haley is having a moment, or at least something a few pundits are currently insisting is one. A recent national poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal put Haley in second place for the Republican presidential nomination — just ahead of Florida governor Ron DeSantis, whose campaign has been more or less in free fall since the day it began.

To some, the former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor exudes a “Southern charm” and a genteel gift for repelling her critics. Despite her hard-line conservatism, Haley is said to possess broad appeal for an “increasing number of independents, moderate Republicans and curious Democrats,” as well as a pragmatic streak that could make her the “perfect non-MAGA alternative to Trump.” Haley’s recent debate performances have earned her effusive write-ups in the nation’s op-ed pages, where they have been called “deft yet serious, quick-witted yet substantive” and seen her labeled a “charismatic and savvy communicator” and “agile and sharp-tongued.”

nikki haley thumbs down

It’s all a little ridiculous. Haley’s ascent in the polls, such as it is, still puts her nearly fifty points behind Donald Trump, who has so thoroughly remade the Republican Party in his own image that it would probably take divine intervention to prevent him from winning the nomination. Nevertheless, the idea that there’s some better, saner, less scary GOP to be saved from Trump’s clutches remains an article of faith in some parts of the commentariat, and Haley — if only because she’s less personally weird than the perpetually awkward DeSantis — seems to be its flavor of the month.

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