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Nikki Haley is about to make history for Republican women in presidential politics

No woman has won any state’s Republican presidential primary or caucus; only two women in the modern GOP have won a delegate. 

Originally published by The 19th

the 19th

When it comes to the history of presidential runs, Republican women have been left in the dust. Nikki Haley’s campaign for president has marked a leap for women in the party, and heading into primary season, her steady ascent as a Republican alternative to Donald Trump holds historic potential. 

No Republican woman has yet won a presidential primary or caucus, something Hillary Clinton clinched for Democrats when she won the New Hampshire primary in 2008. Clinton, of course, in 2016 went on to become the first woman to win a major party’s nomination for president, a historic feat that polling suggests remains far from Haley’s reach. 

But, Haley has a narrow opportunity to win a state primary in New Hampshire on January 23, where new polling shows Haley closing the gap with the former president to single digits. If she succeeds at besting Trump in the state, she would also become the first woman of color ever to win a state primary contest. 

Outside a state-level victory, Haley is likely to achieve an important milestone: She is slated to become the first Republican woman to win more than one delegate in modern party history. 

Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations, was an early entrant in the 2024 GOP primary field, promising to challenge the status quo and bring the unique strengths of women leaders to the White House. At the same time, she has eschewed liberal gender politics, downplaying the role of her race and gender on her political views before a GOP primary electorate. 

At her launch in February of last year, Haley became one of a handful of high-profile women to have sought the Republican presidential nomination and the first Asian-American woman to ever do so. Last August, she became the 12th woman ever to participate in a presidential debate in the nation’s 200-plus year history of presidential politics and only the third Republican woman to ever do so. 

For Republican women in politics who are advocating for increased representation in a party that rails against attention to diversity and equity, Haley’s run represents a step forward for both recruitment and visibility.

Rina Shah, a political strategist and commentator who has advised Republican campaigns, said the significance of Haley’s run lies in her ascent from support in the single digits to prominent endorsements from major conservative groups and donors based on her performance. 

“When you talk about how the world turns these days, it’s about the money and the power, and to have the powerful and moneyed come to say, ‘She’s the one,’ based on her performances — that’s what she’s fighting for. That’s what I’m fighting for,” Shah said in an interview. “I feel like that’s what the vast majority of American women want. We want to be seen.” 

Heading into Iowa, if Haley rakes in around 16 percent of the vote, as polls suggest, she could walk away with at least a handful of delegates, a record for Republican women in modern GOP history. 

These delegates will represent Haley at the party’s national convention this summer, even if by then, the primary is all but over. The candidate with a majority of delegates will win the nomination.

In New Hampshire, Haley could continue gathering delegates. The early January poll from CNN of likely GOP primary voters in the Granite State has Haley inching closer to Trump at 32 percent compared with his 39 percent. (An Emerson College Polling survey also from early January puts that gap at 16 percentage points.) Haley is not expected to win any delegates in Nevada, where new party rules give Trump a significant advantage. Polling shows Haley lagging behind Trump in South Carolina, though she tells rallygoers that she expects that with the momentum from New Hampshire, “we’re gonna go to my home state of South Carolina, and we’re gonna take it.”

It’s worth noting that in 2016, GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was awarded a single delegate in Iowa, and before that, in 2012, Michele Bachmann won a delegate in Texas, according to the Center for Women and Politics. In 1964, former Sen. Margaret Chase Smith won delegate votes at the party’s conventions, but the rules at that time were significantly different than they are today.

Kelly Dittmar, the director of research at CAWP, noted that Haley stands to make history for Republican women the longer she stays in the race. Fiorina appeared in only two nominating contest ballots, as did Bachmann in 2012. 

That could have important implications for the Republican Party, where the electorate has had less exposure to the potential for a woman to be a strong contender for the presidency. 

As for Haley, the potential for history making is something she teases at, not outright embraces. 

“I think she doesn’t find many audiences where it’s something that is going to help her,” Dittmar said. “It is not something she leans into very much.”  

nikki haley 2024 gop primary history

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P J
P J
3 months ago

Nikki has my vote in the Primary. I agree with her far more than the other candidates still running. If she were to drop out I’ll simply stay home for the Primary and vote Blue (again) in Nov.

For whatever reason, if she happened to be the candidate in Nov, she’d likely have my vote then too, but it seems unlikely that she’ll get that far.

Fran K. Ingram
Fran K. Ingram
3 months ago

Her values are not mine, so she will not get my vote which is also colorblind and not prejudice against someone being a male.

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