Washington, Dec 2 (IANS): Former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has been creeping up on former President Donald Trump in the race for the Republican presidential nomination but she is still so far behind that only a superhuman leap can get her past him or he is taken out by one of the many legal cases going on against him.
And there is Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who entered the race in a blaze of hype which has since dissipated, leaving him a pale shadow of the initial promise. He remains second behind Trump in national polls, but has Haley beating him in some of the early voting stages.
In short: There is Trump, miles out ahead, with 60% in the aggregated average of polls compiled by RealClearPolitics. And there are the rest, with DeSantis and Haley battling for the No 2 spot with 13.6% and 9.6% respectively.
Haley’s surge, however, is dominating the Republican race as she has emerged as a viable alternative to Trump and his divisive brand of politics that many Republicans reject. Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, has also projected himself as an alternative to the former president but he has not found the kind of traction that Haley has, although he remains among those who will be on the stage for the next presidential debate next month.
Vivek Ramaswamy, the businessman who has embraced Trump and has projected himself as someone who will complete the promise left unfinished by the former president. He had a meteoric first burst going up to and after the first debate. He was seen as sharp, as still is, but an isolationist who has vowed to get the United States out of all conflicts. But he has had an indifferent second and third debate and made news more for how Haley dismissed him as naive and inexperienced and finally, in the third debate, as “scum”.
Haley’s campaign received a significant boost Wednesday when she picked up a much coveted endorsement from the political wing of the conservative network led by billionaire Charles Koch. There was a time when an endorsement from the Koch brothers, Charles Koch and his brother David Koch, who passed away in 2019, was enough, and necessary indeed, for a candidate to win the Republican nomination. Trump changed that in 2016 and won the nomination and presidency without their support.
But the Koch Network’s vast resources and organizational reach is expected to help Haley in these next months up to the start of the primaries on January 15 with the Iowa caucuses.
But can she overtake Trump? Can any of the others beat Trump?
Current polls put the former president way out of the reach of the rest of the contenders, so much so that he has skipped the debates completely. Strategically, that reinforces the gap between him and them and, more importantly perhaps, protects him from being attacked and pilloried by the others on prime time national television.
Trump’s vice-like grip on the party’s base shows no sign of loosening despite his mounting legal troubles, which he has portrayed as a political move by President Joe Biden to diminish his most political rival. There is no truth to these assertions — Biden has allowed Attorney General Merrick Garland a free hand in Trump cases, and doesn’t even discuss them with him — but Trump’s base will believe every lie he tells them, every story he fabricates for them and every claim he makes.
Trump wants to win and undo the ignominy of the 2020 defeat to Biden, But, most importantly, he needs to win. If he doesn’t, he might land in prison in any of the four cases going on against him with more than 90 charges. He will need the presidency to either stop the federal cases — three of the four — and if convicted, pardon himself and hold out his powers of pardon to turn witnesses.
But he won’t be able to either stop or pardon himself in the fourth case, being litigated by Fulton county in Georgia state. Presidential pardon privileges do not extend to state cases and Trump runs the maximum jeopardy in this case, according to legal experts. To add to his miseries, many of his aides and associates have turned against him and are cooperating with the prosecutors.