On Tuesday, in her concession speech in Concord, New Hampshire, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley told America she wasn’t going anywhere.
“I have news for all of them. New Hampshire is first in the nation. It is not the last in the nation,” Haley told supporters after the state’s primary.
“This race is far from over. There are dozens of states left to go, and the next one is my sweet state of South Carolina.”
Unfortunately, hours earlier, voters in New Hampshire told Haley the exact same thing: Yes, she wasn’t going anywhere. That idiom has two different meanings, however. In Haley’s case, she was putting Republicans on notice that she was sticking around despite a double-digit loss in a must-win state. In New Hampshire’s case, voters were telling her that, fine, but she wasn’t going anywhere near the GOP nomination — considering that, if she couldn’t make it there, she couldn’t make it anywhere.
As for which vision will win, consider that Haley is the last major politician left in the GOP primary not named Donald Trump, so she can more or less hang around as long as she wants. Campaigns cost money, though, and one mega-bucks Republican donor dropped some wisdom straight from the mouth of Kenny Rogers on Haley and her chances: “You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em.”
In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, Andy Sabin — a New York-based metals magnate who had previously said Trump wouldn’t get an “[expletive] nickel” from him during the 2024 race and who had donated to Haley previously — said it was time for her to get out of the race.
Sabin had appeared the day before and had this ominous message: “You know what Custer’s last stand is? She must win in New Hampshire. Not come in second by two points or one point. In order to be a viable candidate, she must clearly show that she’s a winner.”
Well, you know what happened to Custer (and if you don’t, I’m going to assume you got a Common Core education), and you know what happened to Haley. Thus, the chairman of Sabin Metals told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that it’s time she took some advice from “The Gambler.”
“Do you know who Kenny Rogers is?” Sabin began. “‘You have to know when to hold ’em, you gotta to know when to fold ’em. You gotta know when to walk away.’ It’s time for Nikki Haley to walk away.”
The 1978 Kenny Rogers hit “The Gambler,” for the unfamiliar, essentially took the form of life lessons that can be learned from a game of poker: Namely, if the cards aren’t in your favor, it’s time to fold. Beyond that, I don’t know how I could make it more obvious — unless, of course, you’re a sanguine Haley consultant, in which case there’s no way I can make the parallels obvious enough.
He went on to say that he would be “the first person to write her a check for president in 2028,” but there was no path for her to secure victory this time around.
“There’s absolutely no upside to her going to South Carolina, and there’s a tremendous downside,” he said. “She’s down by 31 points now — that’s the last I heard in South Carolina — she’s got two senators and a governor supporting Trump.”
However, as Cavuto pointed out, if the race were called this early in 1980 or 1992, Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton wouldn’t have been president.
“Look, if you can’t win your own state, there’s no reason to go on … There’s no upside,” he continued. “She’s surrounded by consultants and staff, they don’t want to lose their paychecks, so they tell Nikki Haley what she wants to hear, not what she should hear.
“And what she should hear: There’s no viable path to continue. You can only harm yourself by going to South Carolina and losing by 30-plus points in your home state. It’s political suicide.”
And as for Trump, Sabin compared it to a choice between his dog and President Joe Biden: “As long as [Trump’s] the Republican nominee, I’m going to support him. There is no reason — I hope Donald is listening — where he couldn’t be the best president we ever had,” Sabin said, adding that he too often “sticks his foot in his mouth.”
So why not try to buck the trend if donors like Sabin think that Trump is basically just as good as their dog and little else?
“She’s going to lose her money train,” Sabin said. “She’s going to lose her donors. Why not save that money in the event — she’s got 2028, but suppose something unknown happens to Trump over the next six or seven months? She has some money to step in again, if she had.
“Save your money instead of giving it to these consultants and her staff, save it for a rainy day — whether it be 2028 or whether it be stepping in because Trump has a legal problem,” Sabin said with a chuckle, noting Trump’s legal worries.
And whatever rainy-day fund may exist is getting smaller. Later in the day on Wednesday, billionaire donor and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman said he was pausing new donations to Nikki Haley after her New Hampshire loss, according to CNBC. Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone had already said that a “nice sum of money” he was planning to send Haley’s way wouldn’t go there “if she doesn’t get traction in New Hampshire.”
Kenny Rogers may be dead, Nikki, but he’s still got more sense than your living consultants: “Know when to fold ’em.” Actually, that time was Tuesday night, but the next best time is now.