Nikki Haley is admittedly not as hateable as many of Trump’s past rivals. She’s not part of a dynasty like Jeb Bush, she’s not a twerp like Cruz or Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who dropped out earlier this month. But she is a career politician—and now, in this two-person primary, the sole remaining avatar of the GOP establishment.
Haley is a Republican throwback of sorts. She has long been in favor of entitlement cuts and has wooed wealthy donors by pledging to “reform” Social Security and Medicare. She has long backed strict bans on abortion access, though recently made a mealy-mouthed call for “consensus” on reproductive rights. On foreign policy, she’s a proud hawk and could even be described as a “neoconservative.” She largely embodies the same strain of the party that Jeb Bush did—whom Trump trounced in 2016.
In reality, the policy differences between Trump and Haley are relatively subtle. In office, he mostly governed like a traditional Republican. He proposed a budget that cut Social Security and Medicare, he risked war with Iran by ordering the assassination of Revolutionary Guard commander Qassam Soleimani, and Supreme Court justices he nominated overturned Roe v. Wade. Nevertheless, Trump has long used establishment figures like Haley to appear more moderate. Her continued presence in the race will allow him to do that once again. It will also allow him to regain the mantle of an insurgent and outsider, despite the fact that he’s a two-time presidential nominee who’s captured the party from its voter base to Capitol Hill.