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Why Joe Biden’s best shot at re-election is against Donald Trump

Nikki Haley tried to outmaneuver and outwit her opponent. But she waited too long to stop appeasing his base.

On paper, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley should have been able to compete against — and maybe even beat —?former President Donald Trump. ?She had executive experience as the governor of an important Southern, and solidly red, state. She had national security and foreign policy experience from her time at the United Nations, a position that elevated her profile on the global stage and within the echelons of American power. She had an inspiring all-American story: The daughter of immigrants whose family overcame hardships to carve out for themselves a slice of the American dream. She had the backing of big GOP donors who were willing to bankroll her run until they didn’t. She had charisma and presentability.

In the end, she fell prey to the same fundamental problem perplexing the modern day MAGA-led Republican Party. You cannot take on the MAGA movement if you tiptoe around its leader — even in heels.

But what Haley had on paper was just that and nothing more: a resume. And in the end, she fell prey to the same fundamental problem perplexing the modern day MAGA-led Republican Party. You cannot take on the MAGA movement if you tiptoe around its leader — even in heels.

As a result, Trump has prevailed, as he always assumed he would.

Perhaps the biggest irony of Haley bowing out of the race at this juncture, and paving the way for Trump’s coronation as the GOP nominee, is the relief many Democrats are now feeling. President Joe Biden is not a perfect candidate. But the best shot he has at re-election is against Trump.

Haley knew that she had a good shot against Biden. Probably a great shot. Her mainstream brand of conservatism might have peeled off some of the suburban voters who went for Biden in 2020 and who remain put off by Trump’s authoritarian, antidemocratic, xenophobic, misogynistic, anti-reproductive-rights policies and campaign. It was a selling point Haley could have hammered home early and often — that she was the candidate Biden didn’t want to face.

But this was just one of many of her missed opportunities.

By the end of her run, Haley was both failing to land serious blows against Trump, while taking a series of devastating punches herself. Even when it was apparent that she stood no chance, Trump went after her. Even when his advisers encouraged him to pivot and begin to focus on the general election, Trump kept attacking. And therein lies the difference between Trump and those who take him on. He is ruthless. Haley is a politician who tried to outmaneuver and outwit her opponent. But she waited too long to stop appeasing his base.

Biden can learn something from Haley’s failures. He must not cede the moral high ground. He must ferociously and consistently make the case that Trump is a fundamentally dangerous person who cannot be trusted with our democracy. If you cannot make that case convincingly, you have no business running for office.

When asked on “Meet the Press” if she believed Trump would follow the Constitution, Haley replied “You always want to think someone will but I don’t know.” Imagine not knowing if your rival will follow the Constitution — but not ruling out voting for him or endorsing him. Biden cannot equivocate.

Another reason Trump has co-opted so many politicians within the Republican Party into his MAGA cult is because he has offered them a path to power. He took nobodies, fringe conspiracy theorists and has-beens and shoved them into the national spotlight. Haley did not have an answer. Instead of offering an alternative path, she tried to straddle both sides, recently telling Politico that she was “not anti-Trump.” ?

No wonder no one ever took Haley’s candidacy seriously. She couldn't stop Trump.?Now Biden must prove he can.

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