Gov. Nikki Haley, said to be the most popular official in South Carolina, reportedly will endorse Marco Rubio at a campaign rally this evening. As endorsements go, this one is highly coveted.
However, endorsements aren’t considered to have as much value as they once did. In fact, Haley endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, only to see him lose to New Gingrich. Haley is, I think, more popular now than she was then, but 2012 is still a reminder of her limits.
Unless Trump takes a big hit over his attack on President Bush, the Haley endorsement doesn’t seem likely to boost Rubio to victory over Trump in South Carolina. But it may help him in his mini-race against Jeb Bush, the other candidate who was thought to have a shot at Haley’s endorsement. If Rubio trounces Bush, it could be the end of Jeb’s campaign.
The Haley endorsement could also propel Rubio past Ted Cruz into second place (if he’s not there yet). That plus a Bush withdrawal would give Rubio real momentum in Florida, I suspect.
Haley is viewed as fairly moderate and Trump polls well among moderates. Thus Haley’s endorsement could eat into Trump’s support. However, it seems more likely to take votes from Bush and John Kasich. Rubio will be happy with either scenario and happiest with both. (I doubt that the endorsement will eat into Cruz’s support).
For Haley, the endorsement seems courageous. For one thing, it may well mean that she backs another loser. For another, she’s considered a possible vice presidential nominee and Trump is the most likely candidate to head the ticket at this point.
Trump doesn’t take kindly to folks who endorse rivals. But if Rubio can somehow win the nomination, a Rubio-Haley ticket is a distinct possibility, especially if Hillary Clinton holds on to win the Democratic nomination.
Perhaps Haley has concluded that her implied criticism of Trump in her response to the State of the Union address already effectively disqualifies her from being his running mate. Or maybe she doesn’t care to run with the blowhard.
I suspect that Haley would have endorsed Rubio earlier, but for his debate performance, and subsequent poor result, in New Hampshire. But the endorsement — a sign that Rubio has gotten off the canvas –comes, I think, in plenty of time to have about as much impact as it would ever have had.
We will soon find out how much impact that actually is.
Let’s hope it has sufficient impact to encourage public officials in upcoming primary states to endorse either Rubio or Cruz. It’s time to stand up and be counted against Donald Trump.
UPDATE: Erick Erickson, who knows a thing or two about politics in that part of the country, sees Haley’s endorsement as potentially a big deal. He says that Rubio was already surging in South Carolina