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Is Nikki Haley setting a ‘man-trap’ for Trump, Pompeo and other 2024 rivals?

In a recent appearance on Fox News, Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, listened while host Sean Hannity listed some of the potential Republican candidates she might have to run against if she decides to seek the White House in 2024. After he named former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, former Secretary of State and former CIA director Mike Pompeo, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Haley paused and then said with a smile, “Most of them are my friends. … Let the best woman win.”

It was a clever line, but does it hint at a calculated strategy that will subtly build the case that male Republican leaders have failed the party — and the nation — in recent election cycles? To that question, during that same interview, Haley reminded Hannity and his substantial audience that “Republicans have lost the last seven out of the last eight popular votes for president.”

There is no doubt that Haley realizes major changes are taking place within the Republican, conservative and traditional-faith voter base — namely, that it has become much more open to having women and people of color on a presidential ticket. And Haley may be more than willing to creatively remind that voter base of the past failures of white males who have led our country.

For sure, Haley is making the case that it is time for a “generational” change, with regard to the next ticket. With a broadside that many could assume was directed at both President Biden and Trump, she declared: “When you’re looking at the future of America, I think it’s time for new generational change. I don’t think you need to be 80 years old to go be a leader in D.C.”

In the past, some have speculated that Haley might make an outstanding running mate for the eventual Republican nominee. I recently spoke with a Republican who knows Haley well and said, “She is having none of that. Nikki Haley has decided her time is now and she’s about to take the gloves off when it comes to Trump, DeSantis and Pompeo.”

Pompeo might be the recipient of prolonged pushback from Haley, since it was Pompeo who decided to launch a preemptive strike against the former South Carolina governor. In the seemingly compulsory memoir that’s needed to prep for a presidential run, Pompeo went after Haley by claiming in his just-published book, “Never Give an Inch,” that Haley tried to replace Mike Pence as vice president under Trump. Haley immediately clapped back at Pompeo: “It’s really sad when you’re having to go out there and put lies and gossip [forth] to sell a book.”

Game on.

With his attack against Haley, who he most assuredly sees as a rival for the GOP nomination, Pompeo might have just fallen into her trap. It’s a trap that, among other things, can make a strong case of not only the failures of the Republican “old-boy network,” but also that the network for years — even decades — has worked to keep women and people of color out of the circles of power in Washington.

That’s a message today’s evolving Republican, conservative and faith-based voters would be interested in hearing.

They also may be interested in learning about Haley’s childhood struggles and young life as the daughter of immigrants from India. Born in a small town in South Carolina, she dealt with segregation and bigotry, yet managed to go to college and then, on her own, to become the governor of her home state. 

On Hannity’s show, Haley did not formally declare a run for president but reminded viewers,  “I’ve never lost a race. I said that then and I still say that now. I’m not going to lose now.”   

On her Twitter page, she wrote: “It’s time for a new generation. It’s time for new leadership. And it’s time to take our country back. America is worth the fight — and we’re just getting started.”

Although she doesn’t state that it’s also time for the other gender to broaden the voter base and lead the GOP back into the White House, it is a message that some — including her potential male opponents — will certainly receive.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.

Tags 2024 presidential race Glenn Youngkin Mike Pompeo Nikki Haley Nikki Haley Republicans Ron DeSantis Sean Hannity Ted Cruz

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