All eyes on Nikki Haley as Ron DeSantis ends presidential bid

The former South Carolina will do well in New Hampshire, with crossover support from Democratic women, predicts Republican political strategist Rina Shah.

Republican Presidential candidate Nikki Haley shares libations with New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who has endorsed her and is actively campaigning with her. / X/@NikkiHaley

Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination gained momentum Jan. 21 afternoon, as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis unexpectedly ended his race.

Pundits predict Haley will gain additional mileage Jan. 23, as the race moves to New Hampshire, a state in which unaffiliated candidates are in the majority. Haley polls well with Independents. The New Hampshire primary will be the first one-on-one race with Haley facing off against former President Donald Trump. 

Republican strategist Rina Shah told New India Abroad that DeSantis’ dropping out so early in the race came as a surprise to many, including his PAC. “It has been a long road for DeSantis; he was the number 1 guy, but he kept on falling,” she said, adding that a lack of campaign finances, coupled with endorsements for Trump from Sens. Tim Scott (South Carolina) and Marco Rubio (Florida) may have fueled his departure.

DeSantis endorsed Trump as he exited. Shah predicted he is aiming for a vice presidential nod, or some role in a Trump administration.
Haley has the best chance of capturing New Hampshire’s independent voters, and possible crossover support from Democrats, said Shah. Many college-educated suburban women find Haley appealing, and a palatable alternative to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, she said.

Shah, who has served in various capacities with several Republican members of Congress and also served as a key advisor to Independent Evan McMullin’s longshot presidential bid in 2016, said Haley will have to fine tune her message to win over Trump supporters. “The MAGA crowd — Make America Great Again — feels that Trump has kept us out of two wars. In MAGA circles, she is seen as a continuation of Bush and Cheney,” she said, referring to former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Shah has not endorsed any presidential candidate yet, and is waiting to see the results of Super Tuesday March 5, when 16 states will vote. 

Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar, founder of the Republican Hindu Coalition, told New India Abroad that New Hampshire will be a tight race for Trump and Haley. But the former president will ultimately prevail, by a 55-45 margin, if Democrats come out in droves to vote for Haley. 

Due to a change in the Democratic National Committee’s rules, South Carolina — not New Hampshire — will be the first official primary of the Democratic presidential nominating cycle, thus Biden is not on the ballot here. Voters can write him in, but it would be a largely ceremonial vote.

“Nikki Haley is a bright woman. She was a good governor and a great ambassador. I am very close to her: she calls me chaacha ji,” said Kumar, using the Hindi word for uncle. “She will make a great president someday. But this is not her time,” he said, predicting that DeSantis supporters will vote for Trump instead.

Trump is unlikely to pick Haley as his running mate, said Kumar, adding that he is likely to choose Elise Stefanik, R-New York, chair of the House Republican Conference, and co-chair of the Congressional Hindu Caucus. Trump may also choose South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem as his running mate, said Kumar.

Kumar hinted that he is scheduled to make a major announcement with Trump next week in South Carolina.








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