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SAUNDERS: Haley still running for president because she can beat Biden

WASHINGTON —“In a general election, you’re given a choice. In a primary, you make your choice. Make sure you make the right choice,” Nikki Haley, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and South Carolina governor, told reporters Tuesday.

Haley didn’t try to gloss over the expectation that she’ll lose the primary in her home state Saturday. The last remaining big-name GOP challenger to former President Donald Trump told The Associated Press that she refuses to drop out of the race, at least until after Super Tuesday, March 5.

“South Carolina will vote on Saturday. But on Sunday, I’ll still be running for president. I’m not going anywhere,” Haley said.

It’s a good thing for the Republican Party that she’s sticking around.

Haley seems more likely to beat President Joe Biden in November than Trump. A Quinnipiac poll released last month found Biden beating Trump 50-44, but Haley besting Biden 47 to 42 percent.

A recent CNN poll showed Trump beating Biden 49 percent to 45 percent, but attributed to Haley a more comfortable lead — 52 percent to Biden’s 39 percent.

But wait, there’s more. Haley won’t drag her party’s voters through a stew of endless grievances during another election season.

Trump put Haley on the international stage when he picked the then-South Carolina governor to be his U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She stood up against the instincts of much of the — all bow — international community when she backed Trump’s decisions to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. She also withdrew the U.S. from the UN’s dubiously named Human Rights Council.

In her first year, Haley negotiated a $285 million reduction in UN funding.

A self-identified fiscal tightwad, Haley has criticized Trump for adding $8 trillion to the red in four years, most of it not because of COVID. The national debt now exceeds $34 trillion.

As governor, Haley signed one of the toughest bills to fight illegal immigration. Then-President Barack Obama and the ACLU didn’t like it.

I like that Haley’s a former governor — she’s used to serving as the lead juggler of balls.

Trump loves to point out his huge lead over Haley in the Palmetto State. But then, New Yorkers preferred Hillary Clinton over Trump “bigly” in 2016.

Haley has stumbled on the campaign trail, most notably during a New Hampshire town hall when she failed to name slavery as the cause of the Civil War. Awkward.

Trump calls Haley “birdbrain,” which says more about the former president and his potty mouth than Haley.

Ditto Trump’s aspersions on the Haley marriage. “What happened to her husband? Where is he? He’s gone,” Trump asked at a recent South Carolina rally.

Did he not know the answer? Michael Haley, a member of the South Carolina National Guard, is serving in Africa, far from his wife and children.

That’s why I believe Haley when she warned, “Trump is the only Republican Biden can beat.”

If you cringe at the thought of a Biden-Trump repeat, you probably don’t work for the Biden campaign. As Haley pointed out, Democrats “want to win. So they want the guy they’ve already beaten time and again.”

One last point: Haley isn’t too old to run for the White House. Unlike the incumbent, age 81, and former president, 77, Haley is 52.

Contact Review-Journal Washington columnist Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com. Follow @debrajsaunders on X.

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