In the ever-evolving landscape of American politics, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has emerged as a surprising contender, winning over swaths of moderate voters who may lean towards Joe Biden if faced with a Donald Trump nomination. A recent analysis by POLITICO sheds light on this phenomenon, suggesting that Haley’s unique appeal is reshaping the political calculus.
During the 2022 midterms, exit polls indicated an intriguing pattern: voters who somewhat disapproved of President Biden’s performance split nearly evenly between Democratic and Republican congressional candidates. This intriguing phenomenon is echoed in Haley’s appeal to voters who may hold mixed views of Biden.
Notably, views of Donald Trump, a polarizing figure within his own party, play a crucial role in predicting the preferences of Biden-Haley voters. The analysis indicates that 14 percent of voters with a “very unfavorable” opinion of Trump would choose Biden over Trump but opt for Haley over Biden.
Furthermore, there is evidence that Haley’s candidacy could attract disaffected voters. In Wisconsin, 19 percent of voters who expressed being “not too enthusiastic” about the 2024 election fell into the category of Biden-Haley voters.
Haley’s appeal transcends certain demographic lines, including gender and education levels, where Trump has faced challenges. While men and women comprised equal shares of Biden-Haley voters in Marquette polling, other surveys suggest that Haley’s nomination could narrow the gender gap that was apparent in the 2020 election.
For instance, in a recent Fox News poll, Trump led Biden by 13 points among men but trailed Biden by 4 points among women. However, if Haley were the nominee, she would win men by 16 points and maintain a 5-point lead among women, potentially narrowing the overall gender gap by 9 points.
Additionally, Haley’s candidacy could bridge the class divide that has played a significant role in recent political dynamics. She has the potential to attract better-educated voters who may have distanced themselves from Trump’s GOP. In matchups with Biden, Haley essentially mirrors Trump’s margins with non-college-educated white voters while eliminating Trump’s deficit with white voters who hold college degrees.
Perhaps most strikingly, Haley has shown an ability to win over crossover voters—those who voted for Biden in the 2020 election but are willing to consider a Republican candidate next year. According to POLITICO’s analysis, Haley has the potential to capture around 15 percent of Biden’s 2020 voters, a notable contrast with Trump’s ability to win over only 5 percent of them.
However, it’s crucial to note that Haley still faces an uphill battle on her path to the nomination. While her ability to reshape the GOP’s electoral coalition is intriguing, it remains to be seen whether she can navigate the primary process successfully and translate her appeal into a viable presidential bid.