Some in the US thought she was different and even believed that she was perhaps the last hope for a party that was increasingly falling into the hands of right wing extremists and cuckoos.

Even after Nikki Haley quit the race in March after bruising blows from former President Donald Trump, thousands were still voting for her in the Republican primaries. But her supporters must have been jolted when Haley said that she would be voting for Trump this November 5.

Right through the campaign trail Haley had some biting words and language for her former boss, calling him, among other things, “unhinged” or mentally lacking. Irrespective of the characterisations, Trump will be formally the Republican nominee at the party convention in Milwaukee in July. And with a view to giving the semblance of unity, Haley will perhaps give away her 93 delegates she won in the primaries adding on to Trump’s 2,229 already in the bag.

Heated campaign

There is little point in bringing up all that Haley had said during the course of heated moments in a campaign. After all, a lot of sparks flew in the 2020 political campaign as well in the Democratic campaign between the now Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden including an allusion that Harris had referred to Biden as a racist, something that was rejected and denied outright.

Still the fact remains that political campaigning brings out the best and the worst of candidates and the 2024 season has not been an exception.

That still would not answer the question why Haley chose this moment to make her statement and set herself up to the sharp criticism of being a wimp, joining a group of cowards that include many in the establishment of the Grand Old Party.

“They have chosen to promote a man who tried to overthrow American democracy. If Trump is re-elected in November he may finally succeed. Thanks, Nikki”, wrote Mary Ellen Klas in Bloomberg. By and large there is an impression that Haley’s image as a moderate that would give a healing touch to her party and the country as a whole has been dented.

Daughter of Indian immigrants and a former two-term Governor of the important state of South Carolina, Haley is known for her sharp skills and even managed herself well at the United Nations as America’s top envoy in Trump’s first administration.

MAGA factor

Now, at the tail end of the campaign season, Haley must have reasoned that if she were to position herself for the future, this was the time to strike and still come away positive with the huge MAGA (Make America Great Again) base of support of Trump. Haley was the only one standing up to the withering onslaught of the Trump machine during the primaries and a person who refused to go away quietly.

Anything can happen in politics. Haley’s voting for Trump this November could also be seen as the former UN Ambassador getting into the Vice Presidential hopefuls list, something that the Republican nominee has yet to finalize. Trump was careful in commenting on Haley’s remarks. “…she’s a very capable person, and I’m sure she’s going to be on our team in some form, absolutely”, the former President said in New York. Refusals to get on the ticket or for that matter even a berth in a potential Trump administration are hard to come by, the usual refrain being “How can you say NO to the President?”.

Haley’s somewhat abrupt remark last week brings up another difficult question: what would thousands of her supporters do? Feel abandoned? Set themselves up to be wooed by the Biden camp? Join the MAGA crowd? Or just sit at home on the day of the polls?

It is a difficult choice both for the Haley group and for the Biden/Trump camps. Neither the incumbent President nor the challenging Republican can afford to have a huge swathe of voters, especially in battleground states, not voting on November 5 for the margins of victory have been quite slim in some instances.

The writer is a senior journalist who has reported from Washington DC on North America and United Nations.