Haley Lays Footing for Would-Be White House Bid, Evoking Reagan

Haley Lays Footing for Would-Be White House Bid, Evoking Reagan

Former United Nations Ambassador  Nikki Haley urged Republicans to return to their Reagan-era roots, setting the tone for a possible presidential bid that would attempt to forge an alliance between ardent Donald Trump supporters and the party’s traditional governing wing. 

“It has become fashionable in some circles – even in some conservative ones – to dismiss the relevance of Ronald Reagan. They say we must move beyond Reaganism. The times have changed, they say,” Haley said in a speech on Tuesday night at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. “But dismissing the lessons of Reagan makes no more sense than dismissing the lessons of Lincoln or Washington.”

That remark could be read as an attempt to reclaim a GOP that has transformed into a more protectionist, isolationist -- and perhaps pessimistic -- party. Haley, however, also defended Trump and focused her attacks on his successor.   

“The media relentlessly and falsely called Donald Trump a Russian stooge. In eight months in office, Joe Biden has done more to improve Russia’s economic and strategic standing than Trump ever did,” she said, citing Biden’s  abandoning efforts to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. “It’s disgraceful.”  

In an interview in advance of the speech, Haley said she considered herself friends with Trump, who has made no secret that he might run again in 2024, and would consult him before becoming a candidate. “I would pick up the phone and meet with the president,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “I would talk to him and see what his plans are. I would tell him about my plans. We would work on it together.”

Indeed, Haley avoided being as openly critical as other Republicans on the same stage, where the Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute has been hosting a series of talks by prominent Republicans about the future of the party in the year following Trump’s defeat. 

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie urged Republicans last month to “renounce the conspiracy theorists and the truth deniers,” including those who refuse to accept that Trump lost. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan said in June that he was horrified to see the Trump presidency “come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end.” 

Even Trump’s former Vice President, Mike Pence, found himself defending his decision to break with Trump over his decision to accept Electoral College votes for Biden on Jan. 6, saying “America needs the Republican Party to be the party of the Constitution.”  

Haley, 49, was Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations for two years after two terms as South Carolina governor. But she has also distanced herself from Trump at times, saying in January that his attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 election “will be judged harshly by history.” 

In her speech at the Reagan library -- an essential stop for any Republican seeking to claim the mantle of the most popular Republican in the modern presidency -- Haley delivered a prototype of what her 2024 stump speech might look like. 

‘The American Story’

She said America was afflicted by a “plague of self-doubt” that was  “more damaging than any virus.” She condemned critical race theory but also acknowledged that the nation’s “founders weren’t saints.”

Haley highlighted her own narrative, of a child of immigrants from India who plunged into politics, as an example of what the country has to offer.      

“I haven’t just seen the American story. I’ve lived the American story. And take it from me, the first female and first minority governor of South Carolina: America is not a racist country,” she said in the biggest applause line of the night.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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