Nikki Haley was once a darling of the Republican Party, if not conservative movement. Now, she stands isolated after an attempt to distance herself from former President Donald Trump.
In fact, the Conservative Political Action Conference opens Thursday and will not feature Haley, the former ambassador to the U.N. and South Carolina governor.
“It’s a very fine line to walk for a long way between now and the Republican convention in 2024,” former adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and now GOP consultant Alex Conant told The Hill.
“Trump might run again, so you have to treat him as a potential competitor. But even if he doesn’t, he wants influence over who the party picks, and loyalty is what he values more than anything else. So it’s hard to build your own identity separate from him while maintaining loyalty and his support.”
Haley has had a varied history with Trump, including questioning listening to the “loudest voice” during the 2016 GOP primaries but sticking behind the president as administration officials around Trump and Haley worked to undermine the agenda.
Then she denounced Trump’s election fraud claims and accused him of not doing enough to quell the unrest Jan. 6 as protesters stormed the Capitol.
“Haley has never understood the president and seems to not understand where the base of the party is,” a source told The Hill.
Trump declined to meet with her at Mar-a-Lago last week, per the report.
“This isn’t some ham-handed attempt at winning over the never-Trump crowd; she knows how to pick her foils,” a South Carolina Republican operative told The Hill. “Nikki has never been afraid to speak out against the powers that be.
“She knows how to run as an outsider, and knows how to win.”
Haley has been a featured speaker at CPAC in the past, including last year amid Trump’s reelection campaign, but she will be a notable absence this week. It sure makes a 2024 GOP presidential primary run more challenging.
“You can’t play both sides anymore Governor,” Trump critic Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who voted to impeach Trump the second time, tweeted. “Pick Country First or Trump First.”
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