The South Carolinian is keeping Republican donors from consolidating behind the all-but-sure Trump candidacy. The post Nikki Haley’s Favor to Joe Biden appeared first on The American Conservative.

Nikki Haley is a proxy for Joe Biden. 

The former South Carolina governor has now stayed in the presidential race long enough to lose her home state by some 20 points. Whatever her campaign is about, it isn’t a good-faith attempt to win the Republican nomination. 

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It was already clear after New Hampshire that Haley had no realistic prospect, nor even a longshot prospect, of taking the nomination from Donald Trump. She can’t even mount a serious challenge on her home turf.

But Haley helps Biden, and in doing so she might make a new career for herself. 

Democrats have low confidence in Biden’s ability to beat Trump in a one-to-one matchup. Their strategy instead is to force the presumptive Republican nominee to fight on multiple fronts at once.

 Distract and deplete—keep Trump from focusing his attention on Biden, and starve his campaign of funds by making him spend on legal defense instead of elections. 

Haley plays a useful part in this project, and she’s aware of it.

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Her value to Biden doesn’t lie in dividing the Republican Party or in keeping open another front on which Trump has to spend limited resources. Her challenge within the GOP is too weak to do Trump much harm in those ways, although Democrats can be grateful for whatever annoyance Haley’s campaign does cause Trump.

Nikki Haley’s campaign isn’t about voters; it’s about donors. Voters aren’t keeping the campaign alive—Haley is not growing in popularity and winning converts to her cause within the GOP. Her campaign could fight on after New Hampshire only because the donor class would permit it. Indeed, Haley actually became more popular among Republican mega-donors last month following the exit from the race of Ron DeSantis, several of whose big-bucks backers switched to Haley.

Haley donors, and DeSantis-to-Haley donors in particular, are not necessarily going to support Biden over Trump come November. They still think of themselves as Republicans, for all their hostility to Trump. And they’re politically very childlike—their money insulates them from reality and fosters ignorance of what dollars can’t buy. They put far more cash into DeSantis, or rather into his SuperPAC, than made the slightest sense given the Florida governor’s poor polling against Trump. 

Their support for Haley now springs from the same naivete. They think all that money of theirs has to buy something, so she must have some chance of winning, however small. And the campaign professionals who make their living by capitalizing on donors’ credulity earn good pay by singing the notes their patrons long to hear.

Republican voters are consolidated behind Trump. Haley’s campaign in South Carolina, no less than in New Hampshire, depended on votes from Democrat-leaning independents, and even actual Democrats, to soften the margin of her defeat. Voters don’t register by party in the Palmetto State, and any Democrat who hadn’t already voted for Biden in the earlier Democratic primary was free to vote for Haley in the Republican contest. Yet Haley knows as well as anyone that nobody wins the Republican nomination on the back of Democratic voters.

Republican donors, however, are less consolidated behind Trump. The donor class has never been as comfortable with him as with Republicans like Haley or the Bush dynasty. Some Republican donors are culturally almost indistinguishable from their affluent peers who support the Democrats. Others are culturally conservative but very economically libertarian, and they dislike Trump’s protectionist populism. Still others simply think Trump and Trumpism can’t win, a belief encouraged by the very consultants the donors subsidize.

The longer Haley stays in the race, and the more she attacks Trump, the longer it will take donors to consolidate behind the Republican nominee. Haley’s campaign also achieves this through a circular route by supporting an anti-Trump, anti-populist media ecosystem. Haley may not enjoy support from Republican voters, but she enjoys respect among token Republicans or conservatives in the media, including precincts of the conservative media. While Bill Kristol and David Frum are bold enough to support Biden, there are many more timid NeverTrumpers in the media who need to be able to point to some Republican they can still praise. Haley gives them cover. 

With prestigious media platforms at their disposal, these token cons can help perpetuate the illusions that the donor class entertains. Donors, consultants, and anti-Trump journalists need one another to sustain their anti-reality. If they were just playing video games, that might be harmless. But some of them really recognize Joe Biden as a disaster for this country, and most Republican donors will eventually support the Republican nominee.

The Trump-Biden rematch is already on, and Biden needs to suppress the enthusiasm of Republican donors to maximize the effectiveness of the lawfare the left is waging against Trump. Nikki Haley is a cog in the machine. She knows it, and she must hope that if Biden can beat Trump in November, her stock will rise—both because ex-Republicans and Democrats who want to crush Trumpism, as well as Trump himself, will continue to promote her as spokeswoman for an anti-populist alternative Republican brand, and because some Republicans themselves, especially donors, will fall for the story that she could have done better than Trump against Biden. If Trump wins, on the other hand, Haley will be politically homeless—unless she makes a new home with the Democrats and anti-Republican media. 

She knows what she’s doing. The only question is how long donors who still think of themselves as Republicans and see Biden as a disaster will allow her to keep doing it. Their patience is surely running short.

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