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Haley best to vie vs. Trump — and Biden

Nikki Haley is the dark horse in the Republican presidential race that Democrats should watch closely as she gains ground by the day, hair flying with the wind.

Brace for a “Hail Nikki” surge while former President Donald Trump’s troubles with the law mount and his grip on reality loosens and leads to more demagogic rants. Many fear for the future of the country, but I have more faith. Trump lost the popular vote twice and his violence against democracy failed. I was there Jan. 6.

The telegenic former South Carolina governor could pose the most potent threat to two old men: Trump and President Joe Biden. She just picked up a huge vote of confidence and cash from the arch-conservative Koch network, which will give her run millions of dollars.

Calling Haley “birdbrain,” street-smart Trump shows his nerves.

Haley may soon outpace Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, another Southerner, as second to Trump going into 2024. It’s clear as sky that she’s a better speaker on the stump — and in (yesterday’s) debate — than the sour DeSantis, master of the nasal monotone.

“DeSantis, on the other hand, has done surprisingly little to appeal to the voters who dislike Mr. Trump,” The New York Times observed.

Expect more relentless attacks on Vice President Kamala Harris if Haley emerges as a front-runner. And they will hurt.

Each is a woman of color in her 50s, of Indian heritage, which means Harris can’t respond on grounds of racism or sexism when Haley zeroes in on her. “Anybody is better than President Kamala Harris” doubles as a reminder of Biden’s vulnerable age, 81.

Haley reaches people well, concealing her harsh abortion views by saying she “respects” the other side of reproductive rights. A savvy statement, given the body blow that the Supreme Court dealt the Republican party by striking down those rights for women and girls.

Don’t forget, Haley worked for Trump as ambassador to the United Nations. She made no friends and mended no fences representing his xenophobic foreign policy. She threatened she’d be “taking names” of nations who voted against moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a serious shift in Mideast diplomacy and a break in U.S. policy.

Bragging about being an “accountant” coming after Medicare, Social Security and government experts, Haley is first in class when it comes to aggressive Republican women. (Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene just got kicked out of class.)

Cutting social programs is no small deal, especially by Haley’s plan to raise the retirement age. Cutting taxes for the wealthy also colors her vision when at least a thousand billionaires pay no income tax at all.

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