Opinion: How to fight Trump as a Republican

photo by: Tribune Content Agency

Clarence Page

What? Nikki Haley is still in the race?

Yes, despite pressure from her fellow Republicans to drop her challenge to front-runner and former President Donald Trump, the former South Carolina governor sounds determined to stick around awhile — and as insurgent bids go, she’s not doing badly.

She may be well behind the former president in Republican primary votes and opinion polls, but she has scored big in another way: She has demonstrated to others in her party that it is possible to take on Trump and survive. Even thrive, at least if we’re talking about one key measurement of political strength: campaign cash.

Trump has made primary victories look easy, winning one after another. In the ordinary course of political events, losses like the ones Haley’s suffered would mean the donations would disappear. But, even after Trump threatened donors to Haley following his New Hampshire primary win, she has continued to score big in the money race.

Let’s review. Haley took in $17.3 million during the fourth quarter, according to her public Federal Election Commission filing, which is more than twice the $8.2 million she raised in the previous quarter. That was before a single primary vote was cast, though.

What’s proven more interesting is how her fundraising has accelerated even after she began losing primaries to Trump. As Trump was winning the Iowa caucuses, Haley’s campaign said it raised more than $16 million in January alone. She pulled in $1.7 million in just the two days following her loss last Tuesday in Nevada, a particularly humiliating setback since Trump wasn’t even on the ballot.

What accounts for this unusual dynamic? A Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted after the New Hampshire primary provides a clue. In that poll, 67% said they were “tired of seeing the same candidates in presidential elections and want someone new.” Some 18% said they would not vote if Biden and Trump were their choice.

So far, of course, Trump is prevailing where it counts — at the ballot box. But Haley has shown real grit in ignoring the insults from Trump and others in the party and carrying on in order to provide an alternative to those Americans so despondent about our likely presidential options in November.

It is illuminating to contrast Haley’s insurgency with the lockstep unity of congressional Republicans, who killed a grand bipartisan compromise on border security, negotiated at their insistence, after Trump insisted they do so. He was not about to let it pass and take effect before he could return to the White House, even though the debacle made his fellow Republicans look like fools.

So, as much as Haley is nearly certain not to win her party’s nomination, her staying power against formidably long odds is in some ways downright inspiring and instructive. By her actions, she has shown fellow Republicans they can defy Trump’s chokehold on their party and preserve their integrity if they show a little spine and give themselves a chance.

It seems clear the people still donating to Haley feel the same way and want to send the same message. So long as Haley can keep the cash coming in, it will be her decision alone on whether to keep the challenge to Trump going.

Win or lose, she’s given her fellow Republicans a much-needed lesson in fortitude and tenacity.

— Clarence Page is a columnist for Tribune Content Agency.


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