Nikki Haley supporters are split between Biden and Trump

Caught between an old rock and an old hard place, what’s a Haley voter to do in November? I reached out to some of them to find out. Their answers reflect a deep dissatisfaction with both major party’s nominees that transcends party affiliation and an uncertain road ahead for an increasingly fractured GOP electorate.

“I am doing what I think a lot of us are doing. ….We were told by Trump if you donate to Nikki Haley, then you are not welcome in the Maga world,” said Jennifer Nassour, former MassGOP chair and the leader of Haley’s Massachusetts campaign, in an interview. Nassour, a lifelong Republican, plans to write in Haley’s name in November. She expects other Haley activists to do the same.

Some swing-state Republicans are still hoping for a better option to emerge. Jon Dickinson, 59, from Portsmouth, N.H., told me he “certainly won’t vote for Biden.” Though he has always voted Republican in presidential elections, like Nassour, he’s taking Trump at his word: “He said if you support Haley, you’re permanently banned … I believe him.” With no other option, he’s hoping Democrats pull Biden at the eleventh hour and put forward someone younger, more moderate, and stronger on immigration.

Even still, Dickinson — who became an independent after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol — told me that he shares Trump voters’ frustrations with the former presidents’ ongoing legal challenges. “I don’t like what he did, but I think Maine was totally politically motivated,” referring to efforts in that state (and others) to remove Trump from the ballot based on his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Other Haley Republicans are holding out hope for the No Labels ticket. Doug and Stella Scamman, former New Hampshire state representatives from Stratham who endorsed Haley, aren’t voting for Trump because, according to Stella, his actions on Jan. 6 were “a big threat to our country.” “We need some younger people to be running our country,” she said in an interview. Doug added that they might consider Trump, but only if Haley were his running mate. “That could lure me,” he said.

Members of the No Labels group rallied on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 18, 2011. Some voters are hoping for a possible third party to emerge against President Biden and Donald Trump this fall.Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

While Biden supporters might hope that Haley voters are going to look anywhere but Trump, it’s still too early in the race to tell. In 2016, Republicans who supported non-Trump candidates in the primary ended up coming back to Trump  — despite deep misgivings about him. There are already signs that history could repeat itself.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who campaigned for Haley and has suggested that the former president is an “a**hole,” still endorsed Trump after the New Hampshire primary, citing Biden’s “lack of management, a lack of understanding of what’s happening with immigration, a lack of fiscal responsibility.”

According to a recent voter analysis by FiveThirtyEight, if you look at Marco Rubio and John Kasich’s 2016 Super Tuesday voter share, there’s nearly a one-to-one correlation with Haley voters. Of the self-identified Republicans and “Lean Republican” voters in the Kasich-Rubio bloc, about 90 percent of them ended up going with Trump. That could mean that Haley Republicans — which represent about a quarter of the party — will inevitably fall in line.

But that was 2016, and this is 2024. While 35 percent of all Kasich voters and 11 percent of all Rubio voters ended up backing Clinton, almost half of Haley voters in Ohio exit polls said they’d back Biden. Part of that has to do with the fact that some Haley voters were Democrats who cast a Republican ballot in their open primaries to protest Trump. Scott Snow, 65, a Democrat from Greensfield, N.H., told me in an interview that his primary vote “was not so much voting for her as voting against Trump.”

But there are plenty of other explanations for why Haley voters would stray from the Republican Party. For the Scammans, Trump’s conduct after Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory was a danger to the country. For Nassour, Trump’s “ban” is irrevocable. For Dickinson — and many of the traditional conservative Republicans I met on the campaign trail — it’s all of the above, plus the fact that Trump isn’t in their minds actually that conservative. He supports tariffs, has pledged to never touch Social Security, was a big spender in his first term, and is becoming increasingly isolationist on foreign policy.

From the Jan. 6 insurrection to Trump’s 91 criminal charges to the accumulation of 8 years of Trump fatigue, Republicans who gritted their teeth back then may no longer be so inclined. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 37 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters who sided with Haley in the primaries would go for Biden

None of this means Biden is in the clear. Despite succeeding an unpopular president, he’s managed to be even more unpopular – and crucial swing states which he flipped blue in 2020 are no longer a guarantee. A recent CNN poll found that Biden and Trump were tied in Pennsylvania and that Trump leads Biden by 8 points in Michigan.

Though Snow plans to vote for Biden in the general election, he told me that he would have preferred Haley in a hypothetical matchup — a preference polls suggest extends to a majority of general election voters. Snow thinks Biden is “too old” to do the job, despite having a good team around him.

No matter what party Haley voters belong to, they all face the same difficult choice. And while the past might suggest voter consolidation along party lines, this time around there are no guarantees. Normal elections are a battle to gain voters — this year is turning into a battle not to lose them.

This column first appeared in The Primary Source, Globe Opinion’s free weekly newsletter about local and national politics. If you’d like to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.


Carine Hajjar is a Globe Opinion writer. She can be reached at carine.hajjar@globe.com.



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