Jim Hartman: Nikki Haley rises and GOP field shrinks

Jim Hartman

Jim Hartman

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At the third GOP presidential debate on Nov. 8 with a slimmed-down five candidate field, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley demonstrated once again she’s the most accomplished debater in the contest.

Front-runner Donald Trump again was a no-show. He holds a commanding 44% lead nationally according to RCP polling averages and sees no advantage in debating.

Haley stood out early on foreign policy questions. She voiced support for Israel and Ukraine and scored President Biden for weakness that invited aggression from adversaries. Later in the debate, she was fluent and adept on inflation, Social Security reform and, notably, abortion.

A WP/Ipso poll of likely GOP primary/caucus voters found Haley to have performed best (34% ), with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis coming in second (23%).

While having no transformative moment, DeSantis debate performance was his best to date. He vigorously voiced support for Israel, while being much more skeptical of continued aid to Ukraine.

Prior to the debate former Vice President Mike Pence ended his presidential candidacy. On Nov. 12, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott withdrew.

The remainder of the field must be cut. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should drop out along with entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, whose increasingly unhinged rants are disqualifying.

Republican primary voters need to focus on Trump and two credible alternatives, Haley and DeSantis. The fourth GOP presidential debate in Alabama on Dec. 6 should include just Haley, DeSantis and Trump (if he shows up).

On Nov. 7, Republicans took another drubbing as Democrats used their twin issue combination of abortion rights and fears of the extreme MAGA GOP to score political victories in Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

In Virginia, the GOP lost control of the House of Delegates. In Kentucky, they lost the governor’s race. In Ohio, a ballot measure enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution passed easily.

The Trump-dominated GOP has now lost or performed worse than expected in losing the House in 2018, losing the White House in 2020 and losing the Senate in 2021. The predicted “red wave” was barely a “red trickle” in 2022 – and losing again in 2023.

While Trump attracts more working-class voters to the GOP and has a cult following, it’s been more than offset by moderates and suburban women rejecting the party.

Republican voters will need to make a change if they are tired of all that losing.

Voters don’t want a Trump-Biden re-match.

In political peril, Biden turns 81 on Nov. 20 with a large majority of voters expressing doubts about his age.

A Nov. 3 New York Times/Siena College survey shocked Democrats. It showed Trump (and DeSantis) beating Biden in five of the six battleground states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) exactly a year from the election.

Biden beat Trump in each of the six in 2020 but Trump now leads by 48% to 44% across these states.

The survey also found that should Trump be convicted of criminal charges his support would erode by 6%, enough to tip the election to Biden.

Trump remains the GOP’s weakest candidate. In the survey, Haley decisively beats Biden in all six battleground states. She leads Biden by 8 points (46%-38%), twice Trump’s margin.

A Nov. 13 Fox News poll had confirming results:

Haley is crushing Biden by 11 points, 52% to 41%, among registered voters. DeSantis leads Biden by 5 points, 50% to 45%. Trump more narrowly beats Biden by 4 points, 50% to 46%.

Republicans could win a large victory next year if they nominate a next generation leader.

Haley (age 51) has a well-defined conservative agenda and experience as South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador. She’s the most electable Republican next November.

DeSantis (age 45) advocates the Trump-agenda without the drama while touting his conservative policy record and landslide re-election as Florida governor.

E-mail Jim Hartman at lawdocman1@aol.com.


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