Nikki Haley seeks to dial back expectations heading into Super Tuesday: From the Politics Desk


Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, “Meet the Press” moderator Kristen Welker interviews Nikki Haley ahead of a critical round of GOP contests on Super Tuesday. Plus, senior national politics reporters Jonathan Allen and Matt Dixon profile Donald Trump’s de facto campaign manager, Susie Wiles.

Is Super Tuesday Nikki Haley’s last stand?

By Kristen Welker

Nikki Haley, who has yet to win a Republican nominating contest this year, isn’t predicting any victories on Super Tuesday. Rather, she’s seeking to dial back expectations, telling me that her goal heading into March 5 — the biggest primary day on the 2024 calendar — is a “competitive showing” against front-runner Donald Trump.

“We’re looking at it as we’re hoping for a good, competitive showing,” Haley said Thursday in the first of a two-part interview with the former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor.

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That’s a change in the expectation Haley tried to set after her double-digit defeat in New Hampshire, when she said she needed to do better in South Carolina than her 43% showing in the Granite State. She didn’t accomplish that in her home state last Saturday or in Michigan last Tuesday.

And it’s a far cry from saying she’s going to be the Republican presidential nominee.

But Haley’s new goal raises the question: What if she’s not competitive against Trump in the 15 GOP primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday and she falls even further behind in the delegate count?

Is that the end of her campaign?

Be sure to tune in to “Meet the Press” and NBCNews.com this Sunday for Haley’s answer to that question — and plenty more.

Here are some of the other highlights from my interview with Haley:

  • She said that all of Trump’s legal challenges should be “dealt with” before November: “We need to know what’s going to happen before it — before the presidency happens. Because after that, should he become president, I don’t think any of it’s going to get heard.”

  • She said that Trump shouldn’t be able to claim presidential immunity: “I don’t think that a president should be immune from anything. I think that a president has to live under laws, too. And he’s asking for things that no other president’s ever asked for. So I hope the Supreme Court rules quickly.”

  • She said that she doesn’t know whether Trump would follow the Constitution if elected president again: “I don’t know. I mean, you always want to think someone will, but I don’t know.”

  • And she said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell should be commended for stepping down from his leadership position at the end of the year: “I wish that our presidential candidates would do the same thing. … The fact that we have two candidates in their 80s blows my mind.”

Meet the operative trying to bring a low-drama approach to the Trump campaign

By Jonathan Allen and Matt Dixon

Susie Wiles is trying to succeed where many before her have failed.

Various Republican operatives have entered the Trump orbit over the years with goals of instilling discipline and order. The former president has burned through no fewer than 10 campaign managers and chiefs of staff.

Now Wiles is attempting to take a more low-drama approach as Trump’s de facto campaign manager, forged over more than 40 years serving Republicans at every level from mayor to president. She acts as a crucial counterbalance to a volatile candidate who is trying to win the White House while fighting four criminal indictments, according to GOP sources inside and outside Trump’s camp.

If there is a personality trait that links Trump to the soft-spoken, media-shy Wiles, it’s a survive-and-thrive drive: Trump feeds his by disrupting order; Wiles feeds hers by maintaining order. Many Republicans credit Trump’s political comeback, at least in part, to her bringing a new sense of discipline and direction to his campaign.

It’s a partnership that has worked so far, as Trump is cruising to the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. But it’s an open question whether Wiles — or anyone — can keep the Trump train on track all the way through the November election.

His past campaigns and White House teams have been studies in power struggles and personality clashes, both in terms of internal warfare and of outsiders fighting with insiders for Trump’s ear. A diverse array of interests will increasingly jockey for his attention and favor, creating complications for his top aide.

“She sits in a tough chair,” Bill Stepien, who managed Trump’s 2020 campaign, said with knowing sympathy.

In a rare on-the-record interview, Wiles said Trump’s success so far is attributable to precisely one person: “President Trump.”

“He’s now more knowledgeable about what it takes to be president after his first term. He’s more knowledgeable about how to interact with the media. His personnel instincts are, I think, better honed,” Wiles said. “The new skills are inside the package of the same Donald Trump, and I think that’s what’s making the difference this time.”

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That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at politicsnewsletter@nbcuni.com

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This article was originally published on NBCNews.com



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