Nikki Haley Could Be The Next VP

by Chris Tognotti

On Wednesday afternoon, Florida senator and GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio got a rare bit of genuinely positive news. He received the endorsement of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, one of the most popular Republican state executives in the country, and a supporter whom establishment rival Jeb Bush desperately wanted to have. And seeing her name in the news alongside Rubio's is raising some predictable questions. Could Nikki Haley be running mate?

The first, obvious caveat is that nobody gets to be Rubio's running mate unless Rubio turns his campaign around and wins the Republican nomination, and at this moment, that seems rather unlikely. The winds of political fate are fickle, sure. But with Rubio staring down nearly a 20-point deficit in the upcoming South Carolina primary (although perhaps Haley's endorsement could give him a bump), and a 24-point deficit in the Nevada caucuses? However you want to slice it, the reality looks dire.

But if by some feat he were able to seize the nomination ― and if he does, Haley's pre-SC primary endorsement won't soon be forgotten ― there's no doubt that she'd be an ideal pick to be his running mate.

In fact, at this juncture, she looks like the ideal pick for any of the Republican candidates, with the possible exception of the current frontrunner. If there's anything that feels like a safe prediction, it's that if Donald Trump is the GOP nominee, he's not going to bring an elected Republican onto his ticket if they didn't back him in the primary. He seems like a vindictive guy, is what I'm saying.

But for literally any of the other Republicans, netting Haley to be their VP would be a huge boon. As it stands now, Haley is massively popular. Late last year, she was polling at a 56 percent approval rating in the Palmetto State, and a subsequent Winthrop poll in December found that 81 percent of South Carolina Republicans approve of the job she's doing as governor. Those are numbers that are quite frankly hard to find.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Pairing up Rubio and Haley would also give the Republicans a tinge of history that it otherwise wouldn't have ― in fact, it'd make for the most racially diverse presidential ticket in American history. Neither of the major parties has ever gone into November with an entirely nonwhite ticket. Nor have candidates of Indian or Latino descent ever secured their party's nomination. Haley would also be the first female vice president in history, although in fairness, she might have to get there by preventing the election of America's first female president.

Of course, there's one other question about a potential Vice President Haley: Does she even want it? If she harbors presidential ambitions of her own, then it might not be a no-brainer for her to join forces with Rubio. Losing a general election as the bottom half of a ticket doesn't help your eventual presidential hopes ― not exactly much Paul Ryan buzz this cycle, was there?

Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

And contrary to what you might assume, even becoming vice president doesn't help you much when you run for the top job. The last time an incumbent vice president successfully won the White House was in 1988, when George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis. Richard Nixon did eventually become president after serving as Dwight Eisenhower's number two from 1953 to 1961, but it wasn't until eight years later ― his run in 1960 was thwarted by John F. Kennedy. In fact, those are the only two instances of a vice president being elected to the top job over the last 179 years (Martin Van Buren also got it done in 1837).

It'll be fascinating to see whether Rubio makes it far enough for this to even be a question. If he does somehow net the nomination, who knows whether Haley's endorsement is sufficient evidence to assume she'd say yes to a running mate offer. Fortunately, we won't have to wait much longer to find out just how much life is left in his campaign ― the Republican South Carolina primary will take place on Saturday.