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Now There Are Two

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Seventeen candidates entered the 2016 Republican presidential primary. All of them declared in 2015. Five of the 17 exited before the first votes were cast in 2016. In the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, 29 candidates announced they were running or forming exploratory committees. Eighteen of them exited before the first votes were cast in 2020. Eight of the 29 had announced their candidacies before February 15, 2020. Today, for the 2024 Republican presidential primary, there are just two candidates declared.


Former President Donald Trump declared his 2024 candidacy in November of 2022. On Wednesday, my daughter and I drove over to Charleston, South Carolina, to watch former South Carolina governor and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley announce her candidacy for the presidency. Declaring that the United States could not win the 21st century with the 20th century's politicians, she painted a vision of a renewed American dream for the middle class where hard work can get you ahead and the little guy can take on the big guy on a level playing field.

While she made jokes about the best woman winning the race, she explicitly said she rejected identity politics and glass ceilings. She noted how her parents immigrated from a comfortable life in India to be a brown family in a black and white town in the deep South. They experienced racism. They stood out as cultural oddities in small-town South Carolina. But their community embraced them. They are proudly Americans who do not see America as racist, but as the last best hope for free people.

Haley became the first nonwhite female governor of any state and it happened to be the state in which the first shots of the Civil War were fired. As a state legislator, she took on a group of establishment Republican politicians who were a decade past their conversions from having been Democrats. Many of the old guard former Democrats and the newer Republican lifers in the legislature were not much different, except for a small band of true-believing conservatives. Haley was one of them. She, a mom and accountant, beat the longest-serving member of the state legislature, who had served 30 years.


She went on to run for and twice win the governor's mansion in South Carolina. Shortly after taking that office, juggling the roles of governor and mom, she locked herself out of the mansion rushing to get her kids off to school. Then she locked the good old boys out of government, forcing South Carolina's legislature to finally take recorded votes for legislation so the legislators finally had to expose their positions. After Dylann Roof murdered congregants at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the daughter of Indian immigrants convinced South Carolina it was time to take the Confederate flag down from the state house grounds.

Haley then became ambassador to the United Nations and refused to be bullied by an institution hostile not just to Americans, but particularly female diplomats. She pushed back against both China and Russia, representing then-President Trump's vision for the nation.

Therein lies Haley's problem moving forward. She must make the case that voters should support her, not her former boss. In a race wherein Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is only a hypothetical, he already gets about one-third of Republican voters' support and Trump gets a third. Haley will have to fight over the remaining third with, possibly, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tim Scott, another South Carolinian. 

Trump, for his part, welcomed Haley into the race by attacking her for supporting entitlement reform, a position most Republicans running for high office have long held. He also attacked her for supporting Ukraine, a position held by most Republicans and most Americans.


In Charleston, Haley wrapped up her remarks by noting Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. With the exception of Bush v. Kerry in 2004, the GOP has not won the popular vote since 1988. The subtlety should not be lost on people. Whichever elected Republicans Trump ultimately faces as he seeks his party's renomination, he'll be facing competitors, all of whom will have done what he has never done: won majorities of votes to win elections.

To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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