- While she was unapologetic about her deeply held conservative views, she kept the tone and tenor reasonable and warm.
Nikki Haley put on a performance of a lifetime at the CNN Town Hall on Sunday evening. Fluent on every topic and unflinching on even divisive and controversial issues including abortion, guns, and, of course, wokeism, the former South Carolina governor made an impressive case for why she should be the Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential election.
The town hall was held in Des Moines, Iowa, where the first GOP caucus will set off the primary season early next year.
While the numbers are not in yet, if the Town Hall was watched by a good number of Republican faithful (it was poorly timed, clashing with NBA finals game 2), she surely can expect at least a small bump in her polling numbers which are currently unimpressive despite campaigning for several months.
With her polished performance, however, she proved that she belongs on the big stage and is capable of going toe-to-toe with the rest of the male lineup which is capable of sucking up the oxygen of the debate stage. Apart from being very fluent in policy matters, and astutely evasive when mattered, she was also ready with well-timed repartee.
While she was unapologetic about her deeply held conservative views on issues including the debt ceiling, social security, healthcare, and transgender rights, she kept the tone and tenor reasonable and warm. As one questioner at the town hall commented, she seemed like a “breath of fresh air” in the current acrimonious political climate.
She repeatedly referenced her Indian immigrant parents, her upbringing, and her values of service, faith, and country which would have gone down very well with conservative viewers. She even mentioned that her father wore a turban, although she skirted the fact that she was raised in the Sikh faith and later became a Methodist as an adult.
She skillfully navigated the issue of race by presenting herself as a woman of color — the challenges she faced and overcome as a racial minority in the deep South — without sounding like a victim. She did that by taking, in the same breath, about bringing back the good old days when America was great, an allusion to the 1950s, the Jim Crow era, which many Southerners think as the best of the times.
Haley’s best moments came when she tackled foreign policy issues where she contrasted herself with others in the pack, particularly on the Ukraine war. She criticized both Trump who refuses to attack Russian President Putin, whom she labeled as an “evil tyrant,” and DeSantis who dismissed the war as a territorial dispute. Haley made a strong case for helping in Ukraine’s effort to roll back Russian aggression and linked it to America’s national security.
Haley also took President Biden to task for mishandling the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and being weak with Russia by not preventing the Ukraine aggression. She was also hawkish against China, but not reckless. Although she stopped short of saying the U.S. must go to the rescue of Taiwan if China attacks, she said America must be strong enough to preclude any Chinese aggression.
Interestingly, on the issue of climate change, while she said she believed that it is real, she took credit for the Trump administration pulling out of Paris Climate Accords. She attacked the Biden administration’s “green deal” regulations. Rather mystifyingly she said America is not guilty of causing climate change. Instead, she blamed and castigated the “real polluters” — India and China.