Aaron Gulbransen: GOP Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley Has a Formidable Resume But No Political Base

Feb 14, 2023

Live from Music Row, Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Aaron Gulbransen, director of Tennessee’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, in studio to comment upon the recent announcement by former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to run for president in the 2024 election.

Leahy: In studio, the official guest host of The Tennessee Star Report, all-around good guy, all-star panelist, formerly our lead political reporter here in Tennessee, he was, of course, stolen from us by the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Gulbransen: Did you give grief for that in the previous segment?

Leahy: I should have.

Gulbransen: I got to hear part of it.

Leahy: But I should have. But because I’m so polite, because I’m always nice to everybody who’s on the show, asterisk.

Gulbransen: I was going to say, who’s on the show?

Leahy: You are now the Tennessee state director for the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Welcome, Aaron.

Gulbransen: Good morning. How are you?

Leahy: Well, the first Munchkin has announced, and so just, you know, for our listeners, the way I’ve described the race for the GOP nomination in 2024, Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and the Munchkins. Now, Trump has announced. And by the way, a listener called in and said that President Trump has denied calling Ron DeSantis a meatball. That’s on the record.

Gulbransen: That’s what he denies calling him?

Leahy: I mean, come on.

Gulbransen: To some people, meatball could be a term of endearment. It’s better than Santimonius as an insult. I mean, distinctive Monius is not up to Donald Trump’s level. I’m not even talking about the contest between the two for the presidential level, but you’re going to raise the Trump insults.

President Trump, if you’re listening, or people who have a pipeline that is not sitting in the studio. I mean, I have one, too, but you got to come up with better insults. This is below the standards of 2016 and 2020.

Leahy: Here’s a clue, though. This is not 2015 or 2016.

Gulbransen: That is correct.

Leahy: This is a longer discussion. As I’ve told you, the way I’ve described the 2024 race for the GOP nomination, it’s Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and the Munchkins. John Bolton, he didn’t even rise to the level of Munchkin, I don’t think. The former National Security Adviser said a month ago he’s going to run for president.

But I don’t think he’s mounted a campaign. Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and also the former UN ambassador, appointed thereby Donald J. Trump, announced just today that she is running for the 2024 presidential nomination. I have met Nikki Haley, and she is a very effective communicator in person.

She’s very articulate. But the complaint with Nikki Haley is she really doesn’t stand for much ideologically. First of all, to say the nice things about actually, I know you’re going to get mad at me for doing this.

Leahy: I never get mad at you.

Gulbransen: But I do want to announce to our audience, as the Gadfly candidates are starting to come out, that I have declined to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States. And I know you’re not running either, Michael. So just to get that out of the way.

Leahy: So you’re not running?

Gulbransen: No.

Leahy: If we’re going to ask about political campaigns, I got to ask you this. Are you running for mayor of Nashville?

Gulbransen: (Laughs) No, I don’t live in Nashville. Nikki Haley does have a formidable resume, and there are plenty of people that have formidable resumes. But this is one of those situations where I’ve had conversations with a number of candidates who run for president that fit what I call the “what the heck lane.”

I can’t imagine she thinks that she’s going to win. She’s probably at the point, and with her and her team’s calculus, that if 45 different things happen perfectly, she could potentially have a shot at getting in the top three in her campaign calculus. The time she served with President Trump and then…

Leahy: She gave a couple of good speeches. But then she kind of left quickly.

Gulbransen: And then turning on him, essentially. This is a lot different.

Leahy: Do we have a Trump nickname in the waiting? I won’t volunteer it.

Gulbransen: I don’t know. I’m not going to begin to fathom it because I can think of about 15. (Leahy laughs) But Trump, we’ll see if he returns to four. But this is a tactic of the former president. He may say something that we can’t repeat. Who knows? But she doesn’t really have a true political core.

Leahy: She doesn’t have a base either.

Gulbransen: She doesn’t have a base. Foreign ambassadors don’t tend to do too well in these things. She and Bolton can go up on a stage and talk about their hawkish foreign policy views.

Leahy: If you listen to Stephen K. Bannon on WarRoom, he is no fan of Nikki Haley. He calls her a neocon, kind of a pro-American intervention all over the world, not focused on American security, but the projection of American power in places where probably others ought to be involved. She seems to me to be likable personally, but not particularly outstanding in terms of what she stands for.

Gulbransen: I’ve followed her for a long time, and I can’t tell you what she’s for.

Leahy: I think she’s for Nikki Haley. (Laughs)

Gulbransen: And famously, she defended, for example, the former flag of the state of South Carolina until she didn’t and thought it was politically expedient.

Leahy: Because it had a Confederate symbol.

Gulbransen: And let’s be very clear, she defended it when it was popular in South Carolina, and then she abandoned her position when she thought it was a safe political stance to have. That’s the kind of politician she is.

Leahy: By the way, Nikki, former ambassador, former governor, you’re welcome to come on The Tennessee Star Report. We’re happy to talk to you. I think the odds are that our Iowa Star reporter Matt Kittle is more likely to get an interview with her.

She’s going to be out in Iowa shortly. And of course, Aaron, as you know, we launched The Iowa Star just over the weekend, and now it’s quite clear. The road to the GOP nomination in 2024 goes through The Iowa Star.

Oh, you didn’t hear this, but Tim Head, who’s the executive director and your boss at the Faith and Freedom Coalition, I gave him an invitation that The Iowa Star would be delighted to co-sponsor any Faith and Freedom Coalition forums out there in Iowa. So we’ll see what happens with that!

Gulbransen: Many things are possible. That’s a very cool scenario.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Nikki Haley” by Nikki Haley. Background Photo “The White House” by Ken Lund. CC BY-SA 2.0.