Haley book cover

The cover of former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s new book, “With All Due Respect,” due out Nov. 12.

Nikki Haley is publishing a new book this fall, and she’s going to Iowa next week — so of course she’s running for president. Right?

Political pundits have all but named South Carolina’s former governor the first candidate of the 2024 presidential campaign. This analysis is based on Haley’s national popularity and recent history, which shows us that potential White House hopefuls:

Publish books about their incredible lives, with a heavy emphasis on their vast political experience.

Come up with myriad excuses to repeatedly visit early primary states.

Travel the country to stump for other candidates so they can build up favors to cash in later.

Check, check, check.

As Andy Shain reports, Haley will headline Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s first 2020 re-election fundraiser next week — a shindig that drew seven presidential candidates in 2015. She also plans to stump for candidates in Colorado (an important Electoral College swing state) and West Virginia (not so much).

And, of course, her new memoir is titled “With All Due Respect,” a not-so-subtle reminder of that time the former United Nations ambassador stood up to the Trump administration. Her publisher promises the book will detail her experience in international affairs.

It will also straddle the fence of looking like a loyal Trump Cabinet appointee — one of the few not fired! — and also highlight her independence (see title).

All that is pretty much by-the-numbers presidential campaigning, so you can’t blame politicos from the executive-level speculation. But don’t start printing up those campaign signs just yet.

See, Haley is about four years too early for a 2024 bid. That is an eternity in politics, especially in a country with epidemic attention deficit disorder.

“It really is a long time, and it’s sort of changing by the day,” says Gibbs Knotts, a College of Charleston political scientist and coauthor of the upcoming “First in the South: Why South Carolina’s Presidential Primary Matters.”

Haley has made it clear she won’t challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020 … because she isn’t an idiot. That base isn’t going anywhere, no matter what Trump does. She knows that.

But she’s not publishing a book this fall hoping that it keeps her on the radar into 2023-24. And she’s not doing it for the money, even if someone is ghostwriting it for her, because these days she’s making $200,000 per speech. So you have to wonder if Haley isn’t simply keeping her profile high as insurance, just in case the president doesn’t end up on the ballot.

Now, this isn’t about impeachment. The House is unlikely to impeach Trump, particularly since he’s practically begging for it. Both sides knows that would only energize his base, and there is zero chance the Senate — his other base — would remove him from office.

But Trump could remove himself.

According to some of his friends, Trump didn’t expect to win in 2016 and pretty much hates the job (which may be why he always seems to be on one of his golf courses). He could always declare victory, say he’s done everything he wanted to do, and quit.

That’s admittedly unlikely, but not out of the realm of possibility for the mercurial president. And if that happened, is Vice President Mike Pence — the Church Lady — supposed to carry a national election? Good luck with that.

Haley would wipe up the floor with Pence. Frankly, she is one of the few national stars in the Republican Party these days whose image isn’t tarnished. So why not be ready should the opportunity arise? “I’d be surprised if it hasn’t crossed her mind,” Knotts says.

Of course it has, because Haley is nothing if not cunning, ambitious and politically savvy. She got her merit badge in opportunism long ago. Perhaps that’s why Vegas odds give her a better chance of becoming president in 2020 than about half the Democratic field.

Knotts says there is no other obvious government job for Haley right now, and her spokesperson says she has no plan to run for any office. But if she keeps showing up at traditional campaign events, the speculation will continue. And keep her in the news.

Who knows, perhaps some faithful Fox News viewer will even decide she’d be a great running mate next year.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

We're improving out commenting experience.

We’ve temporarily removed comments from articles while we work on a new and better commenting experience. In the meantime, subscribers are encouraged to join the conversation at our Post and Courier Subscribers group on Facebook.