Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and UN Ambassador under the Trump administration, has enjoyed a bump in the polls throughout the last month. Energy for her has been increasing at a high rate just in time for the Iowa Caucuses, which will occur in a few short weeks. After attending two of her events in central Iowa the past two weekends, there is serious momentum for Haley to have a surprisingly good showing in the Iowa Caucuses.
On Dec. 10, Haley visited Manning Ag., where she hosted a town hall. Crowds began to form an hour before the event, and by the time it started, there was an overflow with well over 100 attendees crammed in to see the only woman running in the Republican field. A similar overflow was seen in Altoona, Iowa, an eastern suburb of Des Moines, where Haley visited for a similar town hall on Dec. 17. This restaurant had a much smaller space for visitors, and an overflow was going out the door. In terms of political events I have attended this fall, these are some of the most crowded I have been to besides Trump rallies.
Haley is riding high based on recent polls, which show her climbing up the ranks and have positioned her in 3rd place in Iowa and 2nd in New Hampshire. This momentum can be seen in how engaged the town halls are for her. In Waukee, I was sitting by a self-proclaimed Democrat who said he “would seriously consider caucusing” for Haley in January. This marks the sharp divide that Haley is drawing in her crowd. When you step into a Haley event, it is well known that she will be catering to a much more moderate crowd than the other candidates. MSNBC points out that Haley is playing the character of a moderate and “Some more moderate GOP voters will indeed be drawn to Haley, if only because she is not Trump.” Although Haley may not ideologically be a moderate, voters see her as one, which is what matters in elections.
Another demographic that Haley has going for her is women. With Haley being the only woman running the Republican field, she has leveraged this as a campaign tactic. Whether it be her heels comments at debates or the “Women for Nikki” rally posters, her campaign is leveraging her identity heavily.
In Iowa, the way to perform well at the Iowa Caucuses is to peak at the right time. Haley does not seem to be peaking at the moment, and it seems like her popularity among Republicans, as well as Democrats, keeps rising. If she can peak on Jan. 15, then she will do better than expected in Iowa. In years past, a better-than-expected showing may mean good fortunes for the Haley campaign.