# Tim Scott

Nikki Haley is playing the long game

Let’s start by stating the obvious: it’s very unlikely any of the eight candidates on stage for the August 23 debate in Milwaukee will become next year’s Republican presidential nominee. All nationwide and early-state polls point to the same conclusion: most GOP voters aren’t looking for an alternative to Donald Trump. They don’t find his baggage disqualifying. He’ll be the nominee unless he is physically incapacitated between now and next summer.

With that assumption in mind, we should think about “winners” from the first Republican National Committee debate in a different way. The question isn’t who improved their chances of winning this race, but rather, who made sure they will remain relevant, both in this election cycle and in the future, when Trump won’t be on the ballot?

From that perspective, no one had a better night than former South Carolina Governor and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. Here’s why:

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A new Selzer Iowa poll shows Trump dominates

Dan Guild is a lawyer and project manager who lives in New Hampshire. In addition to writing for Bleeding Heartland, he has written for CNN and Sabato’s Crystal Ball, most recently here. He also contributed to the Washington Post’s 2020 primary simulations. Follow him on Twitter @dcg1114.

The gold standard Iowa pollster, Selzer & Co—their caucus record is nothing short of amazing—is out with a new poll showing former President Donald Trump with a significant lead among likely Republican caucus-goers. He has 42 percent support, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has 19 percent, and Senator Tim Scott has 9 percent. Former Vice President Mike Pence and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley were tied at 6 percent, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie registered 5 percent, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy 4 percent, and all others at 2 percent or less.  

I have written about the Iowa caucuses and their history many times. A few reminders:

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Fourteen quick takes on the Republican presidential field

Less than six months before the 2024 Iowa caucuses, former President Donald Trump’s grip on the GOP seems as solid as ever. Despite multiple criminal indictments and well-funded direct mail and tv ad campaigns targeting him, Trump has a large lead over the crowded presidential field in nationwide and Iowa polls of Republican voters.

Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has failed to gain ground with rank-and-file Iowa Republicans, despite massive support from this state’s political establishment and Governor Kim Reynolds’ thinly-disguised efforts to boost his prospects.

The Republican Party of Iowa’s Lincoln Dinner on July 28 was the first event featuring both candidates, along with eleven others. State party leaders strictly enforced the ten-minute time limit, which forced the contenders to present a concise case to the audience of around 1,000.

I’ve posted my take on each candidates below, in the order they appeared on Friday night. I added some thoughts at the end about former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the only declared GOP candidate to skip the event (and all other Iowa “cattle calls” this year).

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How future presidential candidates voted on the fiscal cliff deal

Iowa GOP Chair A.J. Spiker spoke for many conservative Republicans yesterday when he urged members of Congress to vote against the “ill-advised” deal to avoid tax increases. “The so called “Fiscal Cliff Deal” will only hurt middle class families, continue out of control government spending and fails to address the $16.5 Trillion Federal deficit [sic],” Spiker said in a statement.

Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04, IA-03 in the new Congress) and Steve King (IA-05, IA-04 in the new Congress) voted against this bill. So did likely 2016 presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Rand Paul in the U.S. Senate. However, in a surprising move to me, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan voted for the deal. I figured Ryan would end up with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and most other House Republicans, who objected to the lack of spending cuts. Ryan later told reporters, “I am not afraid of anything, I think it needed to pass. […] I wanted to stop a big tax increase.”

Any comments on the long-term political implications of yesterday’s votes are welcome in this thread. Rubio has already warned that the deal will hurt small businesses and future economic growth. He is wrong about the impact on small businesses, but economic growth probably will be weak during the next few years, which will vindicate his views in the eyes of conservatives.

UPDATE: A few more House Republicans who voted no may run for president in 2016 or 2020: Mike Pence, just elected governor of Indiana; Tim Scott, just appointed U.S. senator to replace Jim DeMint of South Carolina; Jeff Flake, just elected U.S. senator from Arizona.