(Jan. 5, 2005)  Nikki Haley is by now the only practical vehicle to stop Donald Trump from again being the Republican nominee for president.

This is not to make judgments about whether the former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor would be a better president than the other top challenger to Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Both Haley and DeSantis inarguably are, broadly speaking, conservatives, and both have shown ample executive abilities. I believe either one would defeat President Joe Biden (if Biden is indeed the Democratic nominee) in a general election battle, although polls right now show Haley might do so far more easily than DeSantis.

But if Republican voters want a nominee other than former President Donald Trump, Haley is the only one with a practical path, albeit an uphill and difficult one, to reach that goal. Haley may have flaws, but as one Iowa voter put it the other day, she now is this race’s (female) Obi-Wan Kenobi: “our only hope.”

The only way, unlikely as it may be, to defeat Trump for the nomination is to be extremely competitive with him or even edge past him in early contests. While pre-election year polls are notoriously volatile and nonpredictive of actual results, the early-state polls are far better at nailing the actual outcomes once January of election year rolls around. Polls, history, and common sense all say DeSantis has virtually no path, but that Haley does.

Not since Ronald Reagan in 1976 has a Republican who lost all the early contests even kept a candidacy alive into April, much less won the nomination. Reagan, too, narrowly lost that year, even though he had the advantage of a unified and enthusiastic conservative movement against an incumbent, Gerald Ford, who never before had been tested nationwide.

DeSantis, alas, has virtually no chance to win or even come close in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15, the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 23, the lesser-known Nevada caucuses on Feb. 8, or the oft-decisive South Carolina primary on Feb. 24…. [The full column is here.]


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