Liz Peek: How about Trump-Haley in 2020?

Nikki Haley has said she will not run for president in 2020. But would she run for vice president in 2020 and then president in 2024? That could be the right path for the U.N. Ambassador, who has announced she will retire at the end of this year and who is definitely presidential material.

It’s a long time until 2024. Some speculate that Haley might run for the Senate should fellow South Carolinian Lindsey Graham be appointed to replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General after the midterm elections. Barring that opportunity, she runs the risk of fading from view and missing her moment, as Chris Christie did in 2012. Whether or not the president is reelected two years from now with Haley as his running mate, she would naturally emerge as the frontrunner in 2024.

For Trump, too, putting Haley on the ticket makes all the sense in the world.


Many think that in 2020, President Trump is once again likely to face off against a female candidate. Whether it is Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand or, God forbid, Hillary Clinton, his opponent (male or female) will surely attack Mr. Trump for his alleged philandering and supposed mistreatment of women. Nobody could better deflect such accusations than a woman who has worked for the president, and who can speak from personal experience of his support for capable and outspoken females.

Haley is also a minority, the daughter of immigrants from India. Her mother started quite a successful retail business in the U.S.  Haley’s experience working in that enterprise informs her pro-business platform, which she shares with Mr. Trump. Her background also allows her to champion intelligent immigration policies, and the benefits this nation derives from people who enter the country legally.

Nikki Haley’s U.N. tenure has received high marks, even from the left-leaning media. The New York Times lamented her resignation in an editorial titled “Nikki Haley Will Be Missed,” mainly because they portray her as a bulwark against what they deem “Mr. Trump’s worst policies and instincts.”

Haley has a formidable resume, more substantial than that of any of the women running on the Democratic side, barring Hillary Clinton whose credentials mainly fall into the voting “present” category, since she accomplished almost nothing during her stint as Secretary of State.

Haley was the first woman and the first minority to serve as governor of South Carolina. She had previously been elected a state legislator, and served as president of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

As governor, Haley was credited with being strong and compassionate as she dealt with a series of crises, including the mass shooting by Dylann Roof at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. She led the citizens of her state in prayer on that occasion, and again in the aftermath of the horrific floods in 2015. The state’s second-largest newspaper said of her response to these crises, “time after time, Gov. Haley did a superior job.” They also noted that “when the nation turned its attention to South Carolina, she presented a smart, calm and confident face...”

Nikki Haley has proved that she can be tough; tough with South Carolina’s legislators (to the dismay of some critics), tough with our allies and rivals in the U.N. and, on occasion, tough with President Trump.

As governor for six years, she focused on attracting businesses to the state, and employment grew by 400,000 under her watch. She led reforms aimed at rooting out corruption, and she is credited with removing the Confederate Flag from the statehouse, a courageous move in South Carolina. In the middle of her second term, Haley had the 15th-highest approval ratings of any governor in the nation.

Nikki Haley has proved that she can be tough; tough with South Carolina’s legislators (to the dismay of some critics), tough with our allies and rivals in the U.N. and, on occasion, tough with President Trump. And yet, she survived her tour of duty under our mercurial president; she apparently really does have diplomatic skills.

By now you’re probably wondering; what about Mike Pence?

Mike Pence has been a loyal number two in the Trump administration. He has rarely made waves, reliably defended the president in times of turmoil (often, in other words) and has fulfilled the critical role of bolstering the White House’s relationship with the evangelical community. During the 2016 election, the religious right eyed Mr. Trump with understandable skepticism. He had few Republican or conservative credentials, and though he professed to be pro-life was visibly bewildered about what that meant. Moreover, his various scandals and numerous wives caused heartburn amongst evangelicals.

During that race, he needed Mike Pence, a Catholic altar boy in his youth and born-again Christian, to woo the evangelical community. This was an easy assignment, since Pence had long been that group’s pick among presidential candidates. As Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary and a Trump faith advisor told The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins, “Mike Pence is the 24-karat-gold model of what we want in an evangelical politician.”

With the help of Pence, as Coppins points out, Trump won “an astonishing 81 percent of white evangelicals’ votes, more than any Republican presidential candidate on record.” The president’s standing with that community remains high; as Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas tweeted on September 2, "The primary reason Evangelicals voted for @POTUS by the widest margin of any candidate in history is because of his commitment to a conservative judiciary, and he's fulfilling that promise beyond anyone's wildest imaginations."

The ascension of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court, along with other measures like moving our embassy to Jerusalem, has cemented Trump’s standing with conservative Christians. But as the president fought to deflect challenges to the Kavanaugh confirmation, he further alienated the #MeToo movement and injured his standing with women.

Approaching 2020, his deficit is with female voters. Knowing that more Supreme Court seats might open up, the Evangelical community is likely to stay on board. Thus, swapping out Mike Pence for Nikki Haley makes all the sense in the world for Trump.

Now he just has to find another job for Mike Pence which would allow him to gracefully step down, and encourage Nikki Haley to sign on. Both those steps will require some artful deal-making, to be sure.  But we’ve already seen that the president is capable of doing just that.