Gwynne Dyer is a Canadian-born independent journalist whose column is published in more than 175 papers in 45 countries.

By Gwynne Dyer

“I refuse to quit. I feel no need to kiss the ring,” said Nikki Haley defiantly. She was talking about Donald Trump’s ring, because she is predicted to lose the Republican presidential primary vote on Saturday in South Carolina, the state where she was once governor, by a landslide.

Trump’s campaign spokesperson, Steven Cheung, promptly replied on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “She’s going to drop down to kiss ass when she quits, like she always does.” Always a class act.

Just another day in Nikki Haley’s forlorn and seemingly quixotic campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump’s people keep demanding that she quit and accept his victory, but she just won’t do it.
Haley says she will stay in the ‘race’ that isn’t really a race at least until after ‘Super Tuesday’ (5 March), when voters in sixteen states choose about a third of the total delegates for the presidential nomination.

She might even stay all the way to July, when the Republican national convention finally chooses the party’s candidate.

She still has the support of a number of rich donors. She raised $16.5 million last month, when her primary challenge to Trump was already clearly doomed and they all knew it.

So what’s her strategy? It is to be the obvious choice for Republicans if and when Donald Trump is eliminated from the race by illness, scandal or a criminal conviction.

With Trump off the board and all the other presidential hopefuls long since dismissed, Haley would be the only choice that the party could unite behind – and she appeals particularly to the substantial number of Republicans who feel that Trump has hijacked their party.

She has warned that he is “more unstable and more unhinged” than he was in during his first term in the White House, and she knows that her defiance of Trump is secretly welcomed in many parts of the Republican Party.

“Many of the same politicians who now publicly embrace Trump, privately dread him,” she said recently. “They know what a disaster he’s been and will continue to be for our party. They’re just too afraid to say it out loud.”

If Trump is convicted of a criminal charge or becomes visibly incapacitated, many of his apparent supporters in the Party would seize on that pretext to drop him from the ticket, partly because they loathe him but mainly because they think he will lose them the election.

They won’t move against Trump unless a viable alternative presidential candidate is available, however, and Nikki Haley is that candidate. That’s why the money keeps flowing to her campaign although in conventional terms she hasn’t got a prayer of winning.

When Joe Biden was asked recently whether he’d rather run against Nikki Haley or Donald Trump this autumn, he replied “Oh, I don’t care,” but that is quite a long way from the truth. He would greatly prefer to face Trump, because he is and always has been confident of beating him.

Trump is three and a half years younger than Biden, but a great deal less coherent and rapidly getting worse. His legal troubles are all-consuming. As Haley said, “He’s going to be in a courtroom all of March, April, May and June. How in the world do you win a general election when these cases keep going and the judgments keep coming?”

Whereas Haley might actually be able to beat Biden.