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A reader in New Hampshire emailed me Saturday and said that in that day’s mail, he had received no fewer than twelve mailings asking for his vote in Tuesday’s primary. He said that wasn’t unusual this close to the big day, but that what struck him about them was that every last one of them was for or against a single candidate. He kindly sent me screenshots of the mailings, and from the looks of the campaign mailings in the first primary state, the Republican contest this year is all about one candidate: Nikki Haley.
This was just one day’s mail, and maybe on the other days this reader’s mailbox was full of pro-Trump or-DeSantis appeals that didn’t mention Haley; after all, all these mailings were prepared before DeSantis dropped out of the race. But they make it clear why DeSantis decided to pack it in: from the looks of these mailings, Tuesday in New Hampshire is apparently a vote for Haley or against her. Eight were pro-Haley and four were pro-Trump, but even the Trump mailings were all about Haley.
Has Nikki Haley suddenly become the Republican frontrunner? In a certain sense, yes: she clearly represents the Mitch McConnell/Kevin McCarthy wing of the party, that is, the establishment Republicans who wish Trump had never come around and hope he’ll go away for good soon. Two of her mailings contain the same warning: “WE CAN’T RISK IT / With President Trump’s criminal trials and the Liberal media’s bias against him, our country can’t risk four more years of Joe Biden.”
While this may appeal to those who love Trump but are worried about his, and America’s, prospects, Haley also reaches out to those who hate him: “Donald Trump can’t defend his fiscal record, so he is lying about Nikki Haley’s,” says one mailing, which features headlines about how Trump increased spending and added to the national debt. The rest of the Haley mailings don’t mention Trump and try to present Haley as a fresh new alternative, although they’re larded with generic rhetoric that can be, and has been, said about every candidate under the sun: “Nikki Haley has a plan to make Washington work for you, not the other way around.” “She will be the new leader Washington so desperately needs.”
In contrast, all four Trump mailings spend as much or more time hitting Haley than they do actually touting Trump. “Nikki Haley & Joe Biden’s Open Borders Put America In Danger,” says one. Another asserts that “Nikki Haley’s Day One Checklist” will include “Cut Social Security & Medicare” and “Raise the Retirement Age to Receive Your Benefits.” Therefore, voters should “Reject Nikki Haley On Jan. 23rd.” Another says that Nikki Haley is “Too Weak and Too Liberal to Fix the Border!” In fact, “Tricky Nikki Is Too Close With COMMUNIST CHINA.”
From these mailings, one might get the impression that it was Haley who had a big lead in the polls, and Trump was trying to close the gap. Trump has plenty that he could run on from his tenure as president, but instead it seems as if his team has opted to demonize Haley front and center, and only secondarily to talk about what he has done and what he plans to do.
This is an intriguing indication that Haley may really be the frontrunner, in terms of the candidate whom the powerful elements in the Republican party favor. The Trump campaign appears to be aware that Trump’s legal predicament, as politically motivated, unjust, and bogus as it is, is a double-edged sword: while it has led rank-and-file Republicans to rally around him and denounce the Biden regime’s banana republic tactics, it has made the Republican establishment extremely nervous. For the establishment, Haley represents a return to the comfortable days of John McCain and Mitt Romney, when Republicans knew their place in the workings of official Washington, and were happy playing second fiddle and giving Americans the appearance of a multiparty free republic. They didn’t rock the boat.
Then Trump came along and upset everything. The people who want to make sure that he doesn’t get another chance to do so from the Oval Office are not all Democrats. The Trump campaign in New Hampshire clearly knows that no matter how big a lead their man has in the polls, he could still end up losing. Call it the lesson of 2020.