Nikki Haley, in a shift, says 2024 candidacy not dependent on whether Trump runs

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Nikki Haley changed her tune this week on a possible 2024 presidential bid, saying she will make a decision to run that is not dependent on whether former President Donald Trump has decided to seek another term himself.

Showing just how delicately Republican presidential hopefuls have to dance in the shadow of Trump, the former U.N. ambassador told the Wall Street Journal that the ex-president is a friend whom she’d consult before launching her own White House bid. But she also said she disagrees with him that the 2020 election was stolen.

Nikki Haley talks with President Trump in the Oval Office, Oct. 9, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Nikki Haley with then-President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

“There was fraud in the election, but I don’t think that the numbers were so big that it swayed the vote in the wrong direction,” Haley said in an interview published by the Journal on Tuesday.

Haley was sharply critical of Trump after the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which sought to overturn the results of the election, but she has since softened her tone.

“His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history,” Haley said in a speech to the Republican National Committee on Jan. 7, the day after a violent mob of Trump supporters — spurred on by the then president’s conspiracy theories — stormed the U.S. Capitol. “It’s deeply disappointing.”

“He went down a path he shouldn’t have," she added in an interview with Politico. “We shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”

In April, however, Haley appeared ready to let a Trump presidency happen again, telling the Associated Press that she wouldn’t run for president in 2024 if he did.

“I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it,” she said at the time.

President Trump and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 24, 2018. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Trump and Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, at the U.N. General Assembly in 2018. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

In her interview with the Journal, Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, gave herself more room to launch her own bid for the presidency, regardless of what Trump does.

“In the beginning of 2023, should I decide that there’s a place for me, should I decide that there’s a reason to move, I would pick up the phone and meet with the president,” she said. “I would talk to him and see what his plans are. I would tell him about my plans. We would work on it together.”

She also made clear that Trump is welcome in the GOP, whether he runs or not.

“He has a strong legacy from his administration,” Haley said. “He has the ability to get strong people elected, and he has the ability to move the ball, and I hope that he continues to do that. We need him in the Republican Party. I don’t want us to go back to the days before Trump.”

Haley isn’t the only possible Republican presidential contender walking a fine line when it comes to Trump, who remains popular among GOP voters despite being a lightning rod of controversy among the broader electorate.

On Monday, former Vice President Mike Pence, who was a target of vitriol and violent rhetoric during the Jan. 6 riot, dismissed the media’s continued focus on the attack.

“I know the media wants to distract from the Biden administration’s failed agenda by focusing on one day in January,” Pence told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “They want to use that one day to try and demean the character and intentions of 74 million Americans who believed we could be strong again and prosperous again and supported our administration in 2016 and 2020.”

Trump, in an attempt to bolster his baseless assertions that the election was stolen, had falsely claimed that Pence could stop the constitutionally mandated electoral vote certification. Some of the Trump supporters who breached the Capitol could even be heard chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!” Trump himself was highly critical of his own vice president at the time.

Yet now, just like Haley, Pence has tried to position himself as a friend of Trump's, saying the two parted ways “amicably” and “have talked a number of times since we both left office.”

“You can’t spend almost five years in a political foxhole with somebody without developing a strong relationship,” he said.


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