To the faithful, he didn’t disappoint. To the persuadable, he left them hungry for more. To the haters, well, they’ll always find more to hate.
Donald Trump, a modern-day political phenomenon based on a “party of one,” was in full-throated form Tuesday in Orlando, kicking off another undoubtedly unforgettable journey to claim the White House as one of his home addresses for four more years. The markers the president set, which the Trumpian throng were enthused to endorse, were alternately familiar and defining.
Down with the system that’s let us down, out with the elites out to stop us, enough of the fake news.
Wall or not, shut down all illegal immigration, and relocate undocumented immigrants living here to a new, non-American address.
Stop China from constantly one-upping America with one-sided trade practices.
End Robert Mueller-led, Democrat-fed witch hunts. We, the people, will be judge and jury, thank you.
And, when it comes to Americans’ bottom line, keep the ball rolling.
To his credit, the stock market is soaring, interest rates are low, new businesses are creating new jobs and even manufacturing jobs (cue electoral heavyweights Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio here) are increasing at six times the rate they were during President Barack Obama’s last two years.
James Carville, the Jedi master of political messaging, might confess his 1992 formula for a then-insurgent Bill Clinton aligns with Donald Trump today: “It’s the economy, stupid.” In fact, Americans’ bottom line has been an immovable fault line in presidential showdowns for more than a century.
The president can also credibly contend that he is one of the only incumbents in American history who’s committed to changing the system, not embodying it. Hillary Clinton never understood how powerful that mantra was, and by the time she did, Trump made her the poster child for a system that favored the favored — and no one else.
A strong economy. A fearless agent of reform. A visceral messenger with a gut-driven missive for a vocal legion of followers. Together, they may provide enough electoral jet fuel to win a campaign full of competitive jousting and voter venom.
Yet something is missing. Something fresh, something new, something different. The president, whose audience ratings soared in Season 1, could use a fresh story line for Season 2 if he wants to deepen his claim to the throne.
Enter Nikki Haley, stage right. The Democrats may have no answer for her.
The former South Carolina governor, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and emerging favorite of Republicans right, left, and Trumpian, Haley would spontaneously inject life, character and future into the national ticket. She would also do more to renew and broaden the GOP label than anyone since Ronald Reagan.
Haley stands tall for Israel when others offer only weak-kneed kvetching…backs more women in business leading business…and, as a Sikh growing up in the Old South, she understands what it feels like to take a punch.
Three years ago, America was stunned into silence when a white supremacist snuffed out nine African-American lives in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. Haley broke that silence, when she grabbed America by the heart and refused to let go.
That day, Haley showed a brand of leadership we always yearn for but rarely see, embracing the moment with unwavering strength and undiminished compassion. She spoke for only a few minutes, but the power of it will be remembered for all time.
Haley’s “Comet” was back, ahead of schedule, and it nourished the earth.
“We woke up today, and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken…we are a strong and faithful state, we love our country, but most of all we love each other.”
The chess move ahead is obvious. Reassign Vice President Mike Pence to lead Homeland Security (a temporary head is currently in place), so he can command the president’s front burner issue: immigration/border security. Then, elevate Nikki Haley to run for vice president.
The rationale to replace Pence, a dutiful Trump lieutenant, is not without precedent. FDR had three vice presidents; Jefferson, Lincoln and seven other presidents had two.
Nor is a shift to a new second-in-command out of sync with a president who is comfortable shuffling personnel.
In a national column in the spring of 2016, and subsequently on CNN, I advanced the “heresy” that Donald Trump would win the presidency. Four years later, a sound economy and fear of the Democrat nominee’s alternative plan may prove enough for a second term.
Nikki Haley would assure it, and with cosmic might.
Adam Goodman is a national Republican media consultant based in St. Petersburg and the first Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.