It is time for Republicans who care about foreign policy, are hawkish on national security, or who want to win back the White House to get behind Nikki Haley. The former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador has what it takes to keep America safe. What she does not have is enough support from Republican primary voters.
Haley's campaign comes at a time when GOP voters are increasingly isolationist, prefer personality over policy and seem soft on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Can Haley land her message of carrying a big stick, following in the footsteps of the 26th president of the United States and fellow Republican Teddy Roosevelt who used the phrase to describe his foreign policy to the American people? Will she be able to move enough voters between now and the primaries?
My niece was given an assignment by a college professor: List the Top 10 non-personal events that have taken place in your lifetime. The rest of the family made their lists as a fun activity. Six out of this Gen X's Top 10 were the result of foreign affairs. While most Americans do not vote on foreign policy, the exercise suggested to me that maybe we should.
With the GOP presidential primary field winnowing, Haley remains the clearest opponent to the former president, especially when it comes to matters of foreign policy, national security and military defense. She is knowledgeable and articulate on the threats facing the U.S. and democracies around the world.
Back in September, Haley told a reporter from Reuters that she wants Americans to know why a win for Russia is a win for China. She went on to connect the dots between Ukraine and Russia and China and Taiwan, explaining: "If Ukraine wins, China walks away, and does not invade Taiwan."
Haley has consistently denounced Russia. In her first speech before the U.N. Security Council in 2017, Haley criticized Russia for invading Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. Haley was one of the Trump administration's fiercest critics of Russia, declaring that "we should never trust Russia" and Russia is "never going to be our friend."
Haley has argued for strengthening the U.S. relationship with Taiwan and other Asian allies as one way to get tough on China. She would plan to build up the U.S. military as a deterrent and has said "We need to let China know there will be hell to pay if they touch Taiwan."
Haley has been a strong defender of Israel. She is supportive of our NATO allies and has even recommended Ukraine join NATO.
Of course Donald Trump is ahead of Haley by more than 40 points in the polls. For the sake of contrast, here is a rundown of a few of Trump's foreign policy objectives and some recent statements:
Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping a "brilliant man" who rules with "iron fist."
Trump continuously praises Putin and calls Putin's invasion of Ukraine "smart."
Trump referred to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group, as "very smart."
Trump told a crowd in Iowa that he would not back a NATO country if Russia attacked them and has repeatedly stated his desire to withdraw the U.S. from NATO if he were to be re-elected.
Former Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton described Trump's foreign policy as "erratic" and ineffective, saying "He [Trump] doesn't think in policy directions when he makes decisions, certainly in the national security space. It's all connected with how things benefit Donald Trump."
If Haley's strong foreign policy cred is not enough to persuade voters, then maybe her electability will do the trick.
The most recent New York Times/Siena Poll of battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin shows Haley beating President Joe Biden in all six battleground states. Haley leads by a wider margin than Trump against Biden in four of the six.
An Emerson College poll shows Haley beating Biden in New Hampshire 45% to 39%.
Haley needs to take that big stick while wearing her self-reported 5-inch heels on the road and keep explaining to Republican voters in particular why isolationism is bad, why policy over personality will keep America safer, and that she is a winner in the general election.
Haley's path to beating Trump will be challenging. It will likely take independents and Democrats voting in open Republican primaries, like the primary elections we have in Missouri, to even get her close to the former president.
If you believe in peace through strength, then pick Nikki.
Lynn Schmidt is a columnist and member of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board.