Nikki Haley's attempt to thread the needle on abortion could end up backfiring among the conservatives she'll need to take down Trump

Nikki Haley
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, right, listens to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speak during the Family Leader's Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, on November 17, 2023.AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
  • GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley has called for "consensus" on the issue of abortion.

  • But for conservatives inclined to back Trump in 2024, they may want to hear stronger language from Haley.

  • Haley is anti-abortion, but at this juncture of her bid, she'll need a lot to overcome Trump's edge.

After the 2023 elections, which saw Republicans not only lose critical races in Kentucky and Virginia but also come out on the losing side of a Ohio ballot measure that enshrined abortion rights into the state constitution, GOP presidential Nikki Haley of South Carolina said that the party had to be realistic with voters on the issue of abortion.

Haley, a former South Carolina governor, had a conservative record on abortion while in Columbia, signing into law a 20-week abortion ban in 2016 and aligning herself with the anti-abortion movement in a state where evangelical Christians hold immense political sway. (The 2016 law included exceptions for a mother's life, and South Carolina now has a six-week abortion ban which was upheld this past summer by the state's Supreme Court.)

However, as Haley in recent weeks has emerged a potential top alternative to former President Donald Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential primaries, she has attracted attention over her longstanding call for "consensus" on abortion — which she repeated at the GOP presidential debate in Miami earlier this month.

"As much as I'm pro-life, I don't judge anyone for being pro-choice, and I don't want them to judge me for being pro-life," Haley said at the time, while also making it clear that she'd sign a GOP-crafted national abortion ban into law if she were elected president.

Haley has sought to add some nuance to the abortion debate, while still affirming her anti-abortion views, but could it actually hurt her with the very same conservatives she'll need to have a chance at dethroning Trump?

Nikki Haley
Haley, right, listens to DeSantis speak during the Forum. GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is at center.AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

'Everyone can give their voice to it'

On paper, Haley's comments could appeal to some conservative-leaning independents who support abortion restrictions but aren't as dogmatic about the issue as many on the right flank.

But it was the former governor's comments at a conservative forum on Friday which could put her the unenviable position where she doesn't truly satisfy anyone.

During Haley's appearance at the Family Leader's Thanksgiving Family Forum in Iowa — and in response to some murmuring that she had taken a softer stance on abortion — the ex-governor said she would have signed into law a six-week abortion ban had one been passed by the South Carolina legislature when she led the state from 2011 to 2017.

But she also said that while she'd back a national abortion ban, the chances of such a bill coming before her desk — or that of any potential GOP president — were highly unlikely given that Republicans are not only in the minority in the Senate but are well short of the 60 seats needed to overcome a filibuster.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, the issue of abortion returned to individual states. And Haley said the states are where abortion policy should be dictated.

"This was put in the states — that's where it should be," she said during the debate. "Everyone can give their voice to it."

However, there are conservatives who will likely not be thrilled by her dismissal of a national abortion ban due to the impracticality of its passage in Congress, especially ones already inclined to back Trump again next year. And with Haley expressing her support for a six-week abortion ban, she also puts herself outside of reach for many swing voters who may currently disapprove of President Joe Biden's job performance but are disdainful of abortion limits at such an early stage.

Biden's campaign quickly jumped into the fray last week to attack Haley over the issue, warning that she was "no moderate" on abortion.

Haley has a lot going for her campaign at the moment: she's rising in the polls in key states like Iowa and New Hampshire, she represents a new generation of GOP leaders sans the political baggage of Trump, and she's tried to take the lead on an issue that has become a political albatross for Republicans since Roe was overturned. But threading the needle can only go so far, and for many Republicans, they will want to hear more commitments from her on abortion — an issue which will be front and center for the foreseeable future.

Read the original article on Business Insider