When Nikki Haley left the White House in October after politely resigning her post as United Nations ambassador, she probably had her own little Schwarzenegger moment.
She no doubt thought, I’ll be back.
And perhaps sooner than anyone expected.
The New York Times reports that some of President Trump’s advisers have suggested Haley should replace Mike Pence as his running mate in 2020.
This revelation came in a story that says lately Trump has questioned his vice president’s loyalty, which is usually not a precursor to anything good.
Haley would be an attractive replacement, these advisers say, because the president currently has a problem with women — voters, not the ones who sign nondisclosure agreements.
Trump, of course, says the story is absolutely phony, that he has a great relationship with Pence. Which is pretty much what he previously said about Steve Bannon, Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions ... you get the idea.
On that October morning when Haley got her very own White House going-away party, she said that she wouldn’t be a candidate in 2020 — although she promised to campaign for Trump.
Of course, she could easily walk that back by saying that when the president calls, you have a duty to serve.
But Haley fans need not get too excited just yet.
Such parlor talk was inevitable, given the shellacking Republicans took in the midterms at the hands of suburban women voters.
And honestly, replacing a vice president isn’t unprecedented. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had three. The first decided to run against him in 1940, and he replaced the second with Harry Truman at the urging of the Democratic Party.
Trump obviously had to call the Haley-for-vice-president story baloney, but anyone who’s been in politics more than a minute recognizes this was a trial balloon. It’s exactly the sort of nugget politicians leak to see how an idea might fly.
The answer: It would soar.
The president is quite unpopular with suburban women, a key demographic in any election. Putting a strong woman — and a minority — on the ballot would help fend off all those charges of misogyny and racism. Well, a little.
Haley also has the benefit of being more popular with voters than anyone else in Trump’s orbit — particularly Vice President Fuddy Duddy.
Pence was originally chosen to appeal to evangelical voters, seeing as how the president is a casino mogul with only passing acquaintance to Scripture and morals. But Trump remains wildly popular with the evangelicals, and if “Access Hollywood” and Stormy Daniels didn’t send them running for the hills, nothing will.
So, why not shore up the ticket with a woman who actually has favorable approval ratings?
Uh, because this president clearly doesn’t like to be overshadowed. Which Haley would do in a Bamberg minute.
Haley is the only person to leave this administration with both dignity and reputation intact.
She is also one of the few Cabinet-level officials with the backbone to contradict Trump and survive. And although she’s been loyal, she’s not above making jokes at his expense.
“When the president found out that I was Indian-American, he asked me if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren,” Haley said at an Alfred E. Smith dinner shortly after her resignation.
Yeah, the president doesn’t like to be the butt of jokes. And it’s unlikely he’d share the stage with someone who, by almost any measure, is a better candidate.
But there’s this: A poll conducted this fall said if Haley challenged Trump for the GOP nomination in 2020, she’d beat him in Iowa and New Hampshire — the first states to vote.
If Haley came into her home state primary with that sort of momentum, the pundits would be writing Trump’s political obituary.
That has to be tempting for Haley, who everyone assumes has her sights set on the White House. Putting her on the ticket is the only sure way to avoid that possibility.
So don’t think the White House isn’t weighing the idea.
Most people assume Haley is headed for some high-paying, private sector job — maybe as head of a conservative think tank, where she could make money and stay visible until her inevitable presidential campaign.
But, as tempting as a vice presidency offer would be, Haley might even decline it. Why should she?
Haley doesn’t need Trump to get back in the White House.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.