Why Nikki Haley is on Fire

She’s the least aligned with GOP voters of the top three primary contenders, but her candidacy can’t be ignored.

Written by Hudson Crozier

What’s happening: Former U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley is beating Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in national GOP presidential primary polling. She also places second in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary in two weeks, and first in Michigan — both swing states.

  • Haley vs. Biden? Some polls show Haley has a better chance against President Joe Biden in November than former President Donald Trump, the current primary frontrunner.

Here’s the tricky part: Haley holds some popular conservative positions on issues such as immigration and abortion. But overall, she is ideologically closer to Biden than her top two GOP rivals over her support of military interventionism and child sex changes.

Why this is happening: Haley’s support comes from beyond the main GOP base. Polling has shown significant enthusiasm from moderate and independent voters, including ones who say they strongly oppose Trump for president but aren’t impressed with Biden. She also has rising support among college-educated Republican voters — consistent with the well-established trend of college graduates leaning more liberal.

  • Behind the scenes: Haley’s campaign is much better funded than that of DeSantis. Establishment forces have thrown their weight behind Haley with large donations, while moderate donors see her as a viable Republican alternative to Trump.

Why it matters: Trump is still leaps and bounds ahead of both Haley and DeSantis in the polls, but primaries are famously unpredictable. Despite being the least aligned with conservative voters out of the top three contenders, Haley’s chances of winning the nomination are highly unlikely, but not zero.

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