South Carolina governor Nikki Haley endorses Marco Rubio, despite issues with his politics

Nikki Haley in January, reacting to criticism of her description of Donald Trump as one of the “angriest voices” in the Republican Party:

Nikki Haley, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Nikki Haley, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Haley: There’s some things that other presidential candidates have said, too. And when I see something wrong, I say it.

Reporter: Is Ted Cruz one of those angriest voices?

Haley: You know, I haven’t heard Ted say anything in terms of the religion. If he did, I would say something about that. But I have disagreements with other presidential candidates. You know, Jeb Bush passed Common Core and Marco Rubio believes in amnesty, which I don’t. There’s lots of things. But I will say: tone matters, message matters and responsibility matters. And I think, as we go forward, we need to be responsible in our message.

Sounds like Nikki Haley has a bit of a soft spot for Ted Cruz, doesn’t it? Well, here’s Nikki Haley in February:

[iframe src=”http://www.thestate.com/latest-news/article60950802.html/video-embed” width=”640″ height=”380″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” allowfullscreen=”true”]

That’s Nikki Haley endorsing Marco Rubio, citing a host of reasons for voting for Rubio that sounded like they were lifted from Ted Cruz’s website. Cruz Rubio has “fight.” Cruz Rubio has “conviction.” Cruz Rubio knows that “when we fight wars we win wars.” Cruz Rubio will stop the “federal mandates that have been pushed on the states, like Obamacare and the EPA.” Cruz Rubio will “bring a conscience back to our Republicans.”

Haley’s ideological fit with Rubio seems…strained, at best. She and her voters both seem to match up better with Cruz, who has gone out of his way to be a caricature of all things conservative.

But if there’s one thing we know about endorsements from establishment figures like governors and members of Congress, it’s that they don’t go to the candidates with the best ideological fit; they go to the establishment-approved candidates who look like they are going to win.

This being the case, Cruz was never really in the running for Haley’s endorsement. She’s considered a potential Vice Presidential nominee, and the Republican establishment absolutely hates Cruz (which could have something to do with the time he called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor, among other offenses). This being the case, Haley can’t endorse with her conscience; she has to endorse with her career.

Haley isn’t alone in doing this, but degree to which she had to bend over backwards to lend credibility to her endorsement is really quite something.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • 2karmanot

    Haley’s ‘come to Jesus’ moment

  • gratuitous

    I think the analysis is spot-on. If Haley wants a political career beyond the South Carolina governor’s mansion, she’s going to need to ingratiate herself with the party pooh-bahs, and Marco Rubio is the only safe path at this moment. I predict Haley will regret her endorsement by Leap Day, if not sooner.

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