Playbook: Biden vs. Haley on abortion

Playbook: Biden vs. Haley on abortion

With help from Eli Okun, Garrett Ross and Bethany Irvine


HALEY’S COMEOUT— NIKKI HALEY is officially having a moment. Magazine profiles are sprouting. Conservative opinion columnists are apologizing for underestimating her. Wealthy anti-Trump donors are circling her.

And now even Biden world, which on most days seems anxious for the devil-they-know campaign of a Biden-Trump rematch, is attacking Haley with ferocity.

On Friday, Haley stepped into the glue trap of abortion politics that she has assiduously tried to avoid.

Asked by Iowa evangelical power broker BOB VANDER PLAATS whether she would sign a six-week abortion ban if she were still governor of South Carolina, Haley said yes.

She was quick to frame her assent in terms of federalism — that states will decide the issue and it doesn’t mean she supports a federal six-week ban. Her position is that as president she would find “consensus” first before pushing national legislation.

But in South Carolina, which has one of the most conservative GOP electorates in the country, she was much further to the right. As the AP recently summarized, Haley, who “often clashed with members of her party because she labeled them insufficiently conservative” on abortion,

  • “co-sponsored legislation in 2009 mandating a 24-hour waiting period between a woman’s abortion consultation and the procedure itself”
  • “voted to end abortion coverage for victims of rape and incest in the state health plan for employees”
  • “signed the most conservative abortion bill South Carolina Republicans were able to pass through both chambers at the time,” and the law did not include exceptions for rape and incest.

When Haley was baited into answering Vander Plaats’s hypothetical, the Biden-Harris campaign wasted no time reminding everyone of the mismatch between Haley’s views on abortion as a South Carolina politician and a presidential candidate:

“Nikki Haley is no moderate — she’s an anti-abortion MAGA extremist who wants to rip away women’s freedoms just like she did when she was South Carolina governor. Now Haley is promising to bring that same fear, anxiety, and dread she forced on South Carolina women to every woman in the country. Whether it’s DONALD TRUMP, Nikki Haley, or any other MAGA extremist – the entire field is running on a dangerous anti-freedom agenda that the American people have made clear they do not want.”

Trump is likely to be the GOP nominee. (Duh.) But there’s certainly a non-zero possibility he could falter and be defeated. As the GOP field continues to winnow, Haley’s chances are starting to seem better than the candidates she has steadily caught up with or surpassed in state polls: CHRIS CHRISTIE (his negatives are too high among Republicans), VIVEK RAMASWAMY (why back Trump’s amateur understudy when the star is available?), RON DESANTIS (he could get another look when voters finally focus in January, but he blew his debut).

The WSJ this morning says the donor class, which admittedly has a terrible record this cycle, is eyeing Haley. The Journal name checks outgoing Morgan Stanley CEO JAMES GORMAN, JPMorgan Chase’s JAMIE DIMON, BlackRock’s STEPHEN SCHWARZMAN and LARRY FINK, GOP mega donor and Citadel founder KEN GRIFFIN. “If she passes DeSantis, she’s the backup,” a “financier who supports her” told the paper, adding “it’s not completely crazy that she could ultimately win.”

FWIW, when Haley entered the race, the WSJ and a pack of NYT columnists mocked her chances, but we pointed out that she was being underestimated and merited careful attention. That’s still the case.

Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line with your odds for Haley: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

THEY’RE ALL JAKE PAUL NOW — Our Alex Keeney and Krystal Campos are out with an interesting video analyzing how Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign is leading the GOP primary pack in adopting an “influencer playbook” to win over voters through online content. Ramaswamy, according to campaign CEO BEN YOHO, is “the reels president” who posts videos of his day-to-day life — including playing tennis shirtless and rapping an Eminem song onstage. It’s an attempt to find a new way to reach small-dollar donors as the power of email and text solicitations fades.