Former President Donald Trump remains the only Republican candidate to officially declare candidacy for the 2024 presidential race, but one of his former officials might soon throw her hat in the ring alongside him.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has long been floated among the names of possible contenders for the GOP nomination, and this week she offered a strong signal that she’s prepared to run for the White House.
Stopping short of announcing a formal bid, Haley told Fox News‘ Bret Baier that she thinks she has what it takes to be the next leader of the U.S. but that she’s “still working through things.”
“When you’re looking at a run for president, you look at two things: You first look at, does the current situation push for new leadership? The second question is, am I that person that could be that new leader?” she said on Friday, before answering both her questions with a “yes.”
“I’ve never lost a race,” Hayley added. “I said that then, I still say that now. I’m not going to lose now. But stay tuned.”
But will Republican voters agree? Experts and polls appear to be divided this early in the cycle.
Most of the polling that’s been conducted on the Republican 2024 primary has focused on a matchup between Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who also has not formally announced plans to run for the Oval Office.
However, the only survey that’s pitted Trump against Haley shows unfavorable odds for the former governor.
A poll conducted by Winthrop University between October 22 and November 5—before the midterm elections and ahead of Trump’s 2024 announcement—found that while half of GOP voters in South Carolina think Haley should run for president, more voters in her home state picked Trump.
Asked who they would support if both ran for the nomination, 45 percent of registered Republicans in South Carolina said they’d cast their ballots for the former president, compared to 37 percent who chose Haley.
Although Trump remains the front-runner in the race, Haley has remained popular in Republican circles, even after leaving office. She is a rare Trump official who was able to “exit the administration with her dignity largely intact,” a New York Times editorial said, and she has both supported and criticized her former boss.
Republican strategist Matt Klink described Hayley as a “dynamic, qualified and serious candidate” who would would do well in a primary.
“Nikki Haley is no shrinking violet. If she jumps in, she will be a top-tier candidate,” Klink told Newsweek. “With her credentials alone, she would shake up the Republican race.”
Klink said Haley’s time in the Trump administration and as South Carolina’s first female governor have exemplified her “executive level leadership and foreign policy experience.”
“As she points out, she has never lost a race,” he said.
Although she condemned Trump during the 2016 GOP presidential primaries—endorsing Senator Marco Rubio and then Senator Ted Cruz—she went on to vote for Trump in the general election. Shortly after Trump won the election, he tapped her as his ambassador to the U.N.
Even after she resigned from her post in 2018, she remained supportive of Trump and his administration, saying she would not apologize for working with him and that she was “proud of the successes.”
Despite defending Trump about the 2020 election, saying that she understood he “genuinely…believes he was wronged” and did not lose to President Joe Biden, Haley told Politico after the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot that, “We need to acknowledge he let us down.”
“He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again,” she said in February 2021.
She added that she was very “angry” that Trump did not take steps to protect then-Vice President Mike Pence from the mob, but she also fiercely opposed Trump’s second impeachment.
At this point, Klink said the 2024 Republican primary remains “incredibly fluid” and that the field has yet to crystalize. Once it does, it will also depend on how Trump responds to his opponents.
“The ‘elephant in the room’ is Donald Trump,” he said. “He is still the front-runner and his willingness to engage or attack potential competitors in 2023 will set the tone for the Republican primary.”
While Klink had an optimistic outlook for a Haley 2024 campaign, GOP strategist Alex Patton told Newsweek that unless something major changes in the race, he believes she has a “low to little chance” of winning the nomination.
Patton said rather than actually wanting the POTUS position, a 2024 bid from Haley would more likely be a move to set her up for the vice presidency or a cabinet position in a Republican presidency.