Nikki Haley Is Running for President

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It’s unofficially official: Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will be announcing later this month that she’ll be running for the Republican nomination for president.

On February 15, Haley will be making a “special announcement” at the Charleston, South Carolina, Visitor Center, and it’s widely reported that it’ll be a formal declaration of her run for president.

Haley has been making the rounds on Fox News and planting seeds for her run, telling Bret Baier in January, “I think it’s time for new, generational change. I don’t think you don’t need to be 80 years old to go be a leader in D.C.,” and then excerpting that clip on Twitter. Her profile’s pinned tweet right now is of a subsequent appearance on Sean Hannity’s show during which she not-very-subtly hinted at a run.

Today, she tweeted a link to an interview from 2021 where she called for a cognitive test for older politicians, seen as a dig at President Joe Biden, 80, and an observation about former President Donald Trump, 76, who has already announced he’s running again.

Haley served Trump as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations but stepped down in 2018. They notably disagreed with how to deal with Russia’s aggressive behavior when Trump was in office. Haley called for more sanctions against Russia in 2018, but Trump resisted both her and Congress until reluctantly relenting. It seems likely that this difference in position will be a point of contention during the race.

Haley supports U.S. and NATO assistance in arming Ukraine against Russia and also wants the U.S. to take a harder line against China’s oppressive government. It’s worth noting that she doesn’t see trade conflicts with countries like China as an excuse for domestic corporate handouts. She opposed a bill last year to provide billions in federal subsidies to the domestic semiconductor chip industry, sold by the Biden administration as a way to resolve supply chain issues and compete with China. (Reason‘s Eric Boehm has been calling out the problems with this plan for some time.)

Though, a good chunk of her objection was over concerns that the money would be funneled to China through the market: “The way to encourage innovation and strengthen our national security isn’t through corporate handouts,” she told Fox in July. “As Americans suffer from the worst inflation in 40 years, this legislation doesn’t ensure that our best asset—our innovation—won’t be funneled back to help Communist China. That’s a bad deal for the American people.”

So, on the one hand, she doesn’t want corporate welfare, which is good. On the other hand, she’s itching for a trade war with China, which is bad for consumers (and most definitely not a way to fight inflation).

Haley’s Republican conservativism trends pretty mainstream—she is very opposed to abortion and favors strong borders with heavy police enforcement of immigration policies. As governor of South Carolina, she signed a bill that created an immigration enforcement unit and required police to check the citizenship of anybody they stopped to make sure they were in the country legally. The law also mandates that private employers use the flawed E-Verify system to prove that people they hire are legally in the country, putting her in good company with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, with whom she may compete in the race for the Republican nomination.

As for some of the other culture war populism that has animated both the left and the right, Haley opposes the teaching of critical race theory in schools and has called for every governor in the country to ban funding for its teaching. But she supports school choice and parents’ rights to provide their kids the education that they want. She, like DeSantis, is stumbling into the conservative populist contradiction of refusing to consider that some parents support teaching their children subjects Haley doesn’t approve of.

As for LGBT issues that might come up in the primary, in 2016 as governor she said South Carolina didn’t need a bill proposed by Republican lawmakers mandating that people use the public restrooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates. But she opposes letting trans women compete in sports alongside other women and has complained about “woke culture” weakening the military in some vague fashion.

Her former boss, Trump, is so far the only Republican to formally announce a run for the presidency. He responded to her plans with a post on Truth Social that “Nikki has to follow her heart, not her honor. She should definitely run!” He included a clip of Haley from 2021 from a press conference where she said that she would not run for president if Trump ran.

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