Sure, Nikki Haley is losing big on Super Tuesday. But warning signs for Trump are flashing.


Nikki Haley does not like to lose. And she didn’t get in the Republican presidential primary to play games.

Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, often points to her winning record in politics. Before she entered this year’s race, she hadn’t lost an election.

Yet, in the nominating contests so far, the only win Haley has notched is in last weekend’s primary in Washington, D.C. Former President Donald Trump has dominated everything else.

That’s what he continued to do on Super Tuesday, with more than a third of delegates in 15 states and a territory on the table. Trump’s early and decisive wins in Virginia and North Carolina ‒ states in which Haley had hoped to have a stronger showing ‒ set the tone for the evening.

And Trump is rapidly approaching the number of delegates (1,215) he needs to clinch the nomination.

Given that reality, what will Haley do?

Will Nikki Haley drop out?

People in my business love nothing more than to speculate about what candidates may do next. But Haley is keeping her cards close, and she likes to keep the news media guessing.

The expectation is that after Tuesday’s voting extravaganza, Haley will be pressured into suspending her campaign, since she has no clear path to victory.

I’m not so sure.

PORTLAND, MAINE - MARCH 3: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign stop at the Portland Elks Club on March 3, 2024 in Portland, Maine. Haley is visiting several states ahead of Super Tuesday on March 5. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

PORTLAND, MAINE – MARCH 3: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign stop at the Portland Elks Club on March 3, 2024 in Portland, Maine. Haley is visiting several states ahead of Super Tuesday on March 5. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Last month, Haley surprised many observers when she announced before the primary in her home state of South Carolina that she was staying in the race, at least through Super Tuesday. Most thought she would end her presidential bid rather than suffer a lopsided loss at home.

When I spoke to Haley during a visit to Michigan in late February, she did not strike me as a candidate who was ready to give up. She boasted about strong fundraising numbers. And she seemed more determined than ever to give Americans a choice that isn’t Trump or President Joe Biden – both of whom she says would be bad for the country.

Choice for unhappy voters: Nikki Haley says she’s a voice for dissatisfied voters: ‘I’m not doing this to be VP’

So I could see Haley announce that she’ll stay in the race for a while longer.

As long as money is still flowing, she can keep going.

What does all this mean for Trump?

Although Haley hasn’t been winning, she has consistently earned a sizable share of votes – as much as 40% in states like New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan.

That’s not nothing, and her pull with non-MAGA Republicans and independents is strong. That should be a warning sign for Trump and Republicans set on nominating him again.

Ahead of Biden: Nikki Haley dominates Biden in polls. Why are Republican primary voters so stuck on Trump?

Trump seems fine with ditching Haley’s supporters, but that could be to his peril in November. He claims that the Republican Party is more unified than ever, even though he never stops sowing division.

In January, he ranted on Truth Social about anyone who gave to Haley’s campaign: “Nikki ‘Birdbrain’ Haley is very bad for the Republican Party and, indeed, our Country. … Anybody that makes a ‘Contribution’ to Birdbrain, from this moment forth, will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp. We don’t want them, and will not accept them.”

Good luck with that. Trump will need the vast majority of Republicans to vote for him come November, with polls showing a close race between himself and Biden.

Decision time for No Labels

Haley has been vague about her future, but she’s adamant about what she will not do if she drops out of the GOP race.

She has said several times that a third-party bid with No Labels is out of the question, although she told me she’d have to “wait and see.”

Give us a choice: Biden’s toast. Trump’s unhinged. How about a third-party ticket led by Nikki Haley?

No Labels, which says it wants a commonsense bipartisan ticket, has said it plans to make an announcement shortly after Super Tuesday. But time is running out for the organization to attract candidates who could have real sway in the general election.

Haley also has to think about her political future. At 52, she has time to run again for president, and she has said that she wants to do it as a Republican. Joining forces with No Labels now could undermine her influence in the GOP.

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When it comes to endorsing the eventual Republican nominee, Haley has backed away from earlier statements that she would in fact do that. She said Sunday on NBC News that she no longer feels bound by her Republican National Committee pledge to support the nominee.

Many conservatives want Haley to stay on the ballot one way or another to give them a real choice. It just might not be for much longer in 2024.

Ingrid Jacques is a columnist at USA TODAY. Contact her at ijacques@usatoday.com or on X, formerly Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Super Tuesday results show Haley should focus on her future in the GOP





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