Koch Network Endorses Nikki Haley

Donald Trump has maintained dominance in Republican presidential primary polling, but the big-money Republicans who don’t think he’s a good general election candidate have kept looking for someone to knock him down. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fizzled. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina went absolutely nowhere. But the Koch brothers-founded Americans for Prosperity Action now thinks it has the one: former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

An endorsement memo from the super PAC’s senior adviser Emily Seidel lays out the case, saying, “Republicans have been nominating bad candidates who are going against America’s core principles. And voters are rejecting them.” (Translation: Trump and Trumpists.) The group says internal polling shows Haley is best positioned to beat Trump in the Republican primary and win the general election, and she’ll be good for Republicans:

In sharp contrast to recent elections that were dominated by the negative baggage of Donald Trump and in which good candidates lost races that should have been won, Nikki Haley, at the top of the ticket, would boost candidates up and down the ballot, winning the key independent and moderate voters that Trump has no chance to win.

AFP Action has a lot of money and a powerful organization, and expresses confidence it can make this happen.

Haley has a lot of ground to make up, though.

The Iowa Republican caucuses are in just under seven weeks, including holiday weeks when little campaigning will be happening. It is absolutely the case that Trump’s polling is not as strong in Iowa or its fellow early state (on the Republican calendar) of New Hampshire as it is nationally, and that Haley is on the rise. But she will have to rise a lot: Trump’s current polling average is 44.7% in Iowa, while Haley’s is 15.3%. It’s a substantial increase from the roughly 10% Haley was polling at a month ago, but it’s not a meteoric rise.

Haley has had something closer to a meteoric rise in New Hampshire: She went from around 10% in September to around 15% through most of October and November, to 18.9% now. Trump also sits at 44.7% in New Hampshire. Is it imaginable that Haley, with massive support from AFP Action, outperforms expectations in Iowa then uses that to catapult to a win in New Hampshire, destroying Trump’s sense of inevitability and overtaking him in other states? Sure, it’s imaginable. It’s still not the most likely scenario.

AFP Action’s endorsement of Haley is new, but its efforts to block Trump from the Republican presidential nomination are not. The group has already spent more than $9 million on online ads and mailers opposing Trump in states including Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, The New York Times reports. The effect of those efforts is hard to discern at this point. AFP Action is also now in the position of backing a candidate who holds positions on key foreign policy issues that the Koch network has spent tens of millions of dollars opposing, including Ukraine and Afghanistan. The desperation to defeat Trump apparently trumps all.

The Iowa Republican caucuses are on Jan. 15, 2024. We’ll be watching for AFP Action’s Haley endorsement to start shifting the polls between now and then.

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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