Donald Trump has proclaimed himself the king of the deal, so let’s see him make this one– getting Gov. Nikki Haley to be his running mate. It might be the only move he could make between now and the Republican convention that could move delegates from #NeverTrump to #MaybeTrump and ease his path to the nomination in the face of a party apparatus that just doesn’t seem to want him to win.
Getting Haley to agree to join a Trump ticket would probably be the highest hurdle for Trump to clear. The South Carolina governor first endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio for president, but when that didn’t work out, she said she’d vote for Ted Cruz instead.
Haley has spoken out repeatedly against the sort of prejudice she says Trump cultivates and joked to the Gridiron dinner this year that even though she got to give the GOP response to the State of the Union, “I won’t really feel like I’ve arrived until Donald Trump has asked to see my birth certificate.”
So Haley’s no fan of the man, but as Trump said in The Art of the Deal, “If you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.”
Assuming Donald Trump is thinking anyway, and I leave that open for debate, let’s run through the many reasons Haley is the only person who could right the SS Trump.
Haley’s potential as Trump’s V.P. has nothing to do with the fact that she is a young, conservative, minority woman who is the daughter of immigrants, which would seem to neutralize some of the damage he’s done to himself with young people, conservatives, minorities, women, and immigrants. But veep choices based solely on “broadening the ticket” usually do the opposite- just ask John McCain.
Instead of just checking boxes, Haley has become the kind of leader that some people expected Trump to be before he went insane- business friendly, out of the box, willing to stand up to entrenched political interests and capable of real leadership.
During her time in office, South Carolina’s unemployment rate has fallen from 11 percent to 5.5 percent. While Trump talks about upending NAFTA and ending free trade, South Carolina has worked to backfill the jobs lost through NAFTA by wooing companies like Munich-based BMW to build more and more of their products there. The plant in Greer, S.C., which opened in 1994, has grown to become BMW’s largest in the world and just exported its 2 millionth SUV overseas.
Trump likes to talk a lot about being strong, even though he mostly shows his strength by mean-Tweeting critics after midnight. On more than one occasion, Haley has shown strength and the path of more resistance in her conservative state. After the shootings at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, Haley moved immediately to take down the Confederate flag that flew in front of the state Capitol. Many before Haley had tried and failed, but she and others knew that moment of horror could be the time to finally move South Carolina forward in a meaningful way.
Keeping with the theme of moving forward, Haley also took a pass last week on dealing with a transgender bathroom bill like the one in North Carolina that ensnared that state’s governor in controversy the week before. Instead of wading into the bathroom debate, Haley just said she didn’t think the bill was necessary. End of story.
Beyond Haley’s knack for rising to the occasion when the spotlight was on her state, she’s also done the unglamorous work of governing, like dealing with the floods that ravaged Columbia last year. Compare that to Chris Christie’s response on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, when a voter asked him why he wasn’t in New Jersey dealing with his own state’s floods. “What do you want me to do, get a mop?” he asked. At the time, I thought yes, governor, get a mop. That’s your job.
But the main reason Trump should get Haley to run on a ticket with him is the good judgment she has shown by making it clear she never would. Like Groucho Marx, who said he didn’t want to join any club that would have him as a member, the only people who could credibly help Trump at this point are the ones who have seen the holes in his candidacy and have had the political courage to say exactly what they are.
It’s hard to think what Trump could offer Haley, or anyone credible, to get her to join a ticket with him. Maybe she could to all the work behind the scenes while he takes all the credit? I know many Republicans who would sleep better at night if that was a deal Trump could manage to strike.
Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for the Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill Bureau Chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane. Follow her @1PatriciaMurphy