Nikki Haley stumbles and Vivek Ramaswamy exits

Toxic pathology between Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy on display again

By Mayank Chhaya

With Iowa pity-buying what Nikki Haley is selling but altogether rejecting what Vivek Ramaswamy was selling, the prospects of an Indian American contender for U.S. president face extinction.

While Ramaswamy inevitably dropped out of the race and expeditiously endorsed former President and Iowa’s blockbuster winner Donald Trump, Haley has tried to remain optimistic for the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday. She released a 30 second ad that asked, “The two most disliked politicians in America?” and offered the obvious answer—Trump and President Joe Biden.

It said, “Both are consumed by chaos, negativity and grievances of the past.” In contrast, the ad said, Haley has a “different style and approach.” As part of that different approach, she offered the same anodyne prescriptions that any presidential aspirant would. “Fix our economy, close our border and strengthen the cause of freedom,” she said. How all of those could be done could not be articulated in 30 seconds, of course.

Haley enters New Hampshire in the hope that the moderate state might hand her what the avowedly Trump state of Iowa did not—a chance. “We love you, Iowa, but we are off to New Hampshire,” she said. Haley has a town-hall event in Bretton Woods tonight.

Haley polled just 19.1 percent with 21,085 votes and 8 delegates compared to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s 21.2 percent, 23,420 votes and 9 delegates and Trump’s 51 % with 56,260 votes and 20 delegates. A third place for DeSantis was expected to have ended his campaign and boosted Haley as the main Trump adversary. However, that did not happen for her.

Ramaswamy, an upstart entrepreneur who routinely stomped around with unnecessarily pugnacious posturing, was not expected to do well. He lived up to that expectation and dropped out. It is possible that he may now be angling to be on Trump’s ticket as his second-in-command, something that seems highly unlikely. Haley could trump him there if she is not the Republican nominee.

Irrespective of the outcomes, it is remarkable for the Indian American community that with barely four million population, which is a little above one percent of the nation’s, had two presidential candidates until Iowa. There is, of course, Vice President Kamala Harris, an Indian American from her mother’s side, who already made history in 2020 but appears to be trapped in mediocre anonymity.

Haley is emphasizing that both Trump and Biden would be disasters for America and that she is the better option between the two parties. Notwithstanding her third place in Iowa, it is not necessarily bad for her because it is just a delegate short of DeSantis. It is not altogether inconceivable that New Hampshire might push her up to the second position.

Going into Iowa many in the media had projected that there would be wind behind the sails for her that would likely put her in the second position. It turned out to be exaggerated.

It is not clear whether DeSantis’s equally moderate success in Iowa will resuscitate his campaign as expected by him. For now, Trump remains a looming presence, remarkably unaffected by his grave legal troubles, any one of which could lead to his conviction.

So far, Haley’s main message of getting a “new generation of conservatives” has not caught on much. If anything, a party, in thrall of someone who has defied definitions and cavalierly ridden roughshod over conservative principles, namely Trump, could do the expected in nominating him.

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