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Nikki Haley 2024 timetable could hinge on Tuesday's White House outcome

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Election 2020 RNC (copy)

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks on behalf of a second term for President Donald Trump during the Republican National Convention, Aug. 24, 2020. File/AP Photo/Susan Walsh

No matter who wins the White House on Tuesday, the spotlight will almost immediately turn toward former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.

That's because the nagging question becomes: How soon will she declare her intentions for a potential 2024 run?

Former national Democratic Party leader Don Fowler of Columbia says he'd expect Haley to announce her plans by January 2022.

"She's a damn good politician," said Fowler, a veteran of multiple campaigns on that side of the aisle.

"She has surprised me for being as astute, careful and insightful as she is," he added and warned that the other Republicans looking to be in the 2024 field "need to watch her like a hawk."

In the meantime, Fowler said Haley should continue doing exactly what she has been: helping Republican U.S. Senate and governor candidates (it's a way for them to become obligated), visiting state party groups and conventions, and talking to the big-money people in high-profile states such as New York, Texas and Illinois.

Tucker Eskew, another South Carolina presidential campaign veteran who worked on both of George W. Bush's White House runs and McCain-Palin 2008, said one of the most important early steps Haley needs to secure is in hiring a knowledgeable legal source who knows the ins, outs and roundabouts of federal campaign law.

Beyond securing a legal staff, Eskew said it's the press who will be chronicling Haley's micro steps, focusing on all her hires, her travel and her fundraising looking for signals, so there won't be much room for surprise.

"Timetables are accelerated," he added. "You can't rely on what worked in the past in an era of so much disruption."

Haley's office declined to comment about the future, but her schedule in the last four weeks has been jammed with stumping the country.

She's appeared or has done endorsement work for candidates in New Hampshire, Texas, South Carolina for congressional candidate Nancy Mace, Rep. Joe Wilson and Sen. Lindsey Graham; Arizona for Sen. Martha McSally; Montana; Iowa for Sen. Joni Ernst; and Pennsylvania for Trump.

On Thursday she was in Michigan for GOP Senate candidate John James; Friday she was in Georgia with incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Heading into the weekend she was scheduled to be with Sen. Thom Tillis in North Carolina.

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Others in the know agree that modern politics has gotten so strange that there simply is no longer a set formula that Haley has to follow in setting up a 2024 bid.

"I'm not sure there's a 'normal' playbook anymore," said Whit Ayres, another South Carolina campaign veteran and author of "2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America."

Ayres added that Haley's fortunes could still hang on what happens Tuesday, since various scenarios are at play.

Among them is that if Donald Trump wins, it bodes well for a Trump supporter in 2024, he said — a category which includes Haley in her role as a Trump cheerleader and his former U.N. ambassador.

But if Trump loses badly and the Senate flips and the Republican Party goes down in flames, the leftover ash pile would leave a GOP that's gutted and in search of an identity.

All that has to be part of Haley's calculations, Ayres said, as does the shape of the 2022 midterms.

"The first question a candidate like Haley would have to ask is whether you are a good fit for the times and whether your party has promising — or dreary — prospects in the election cycle you are considering," he said.

Editor's note: This has been updated to exclude information on Haley's "Stand For America" issue advocacy which is not a political action committee.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

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