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Would former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley or former President Donald Trump be a better president for my children and grandchildren?
When there were plenty of GOP candidates for president milling around, all sorts of questions and comparisons between them arose. But now that it’s a binary choice among two potential nominees, only a handful of fundamental questions will drive a voter’s choice.
In this case of Trump v Haley, “Are the kids alright?” may prove dispositive for millions of voters. In 2024, with public schools in disarray and “DEI” growing like kudzu among the country’s public schools at every level, parents especially have to survey their choice of GOP standard-bearer with the kids in mind.
Of course, many voters don’t have children. Some that do have even more immediate and pressing concerns: They might live in a town or a city close to the southwestern border or have a family member on active duty and indeed deployed on a far-off base or a U.S. Navy ship transiting the Red Sea.
But the “cross tab” I’m most interested in out of the South Carolina primary on February 24 and the Super Tuesday states beyond is the parents and grandparents’ vote. Which of the two candidates left standing after more than a year of preliminaries is best suited to make America a place of promise for children in college, high school, or K-8?
Republicans generally, and independents as well, are not favorably disposed to public education right now. “Americans’ views of the country’s schools have continued to fall, with just 36% saying they’re satisfied with U.S. education,” reports Chalkbeat.
Parents generally like the schools their own children attend, but if COVID had a blast zone, public education was near its center, right next to the CDC and FDA. The former president or the former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina governor are well advised to focus like a laser on education and what voters’ children are learning (or not).
The former president rarely fails to blast the idea of boys playing in girls’ sports, and it’s usually a huge applause line. But is it an issue that drives a choice inside a voting both? Clearly, inflation generally and economic uncertainty do, and of course, the prices of gas and groceries are always going to impact voters.
But will either Haley or Trump bear down on the many scandals that have consumed K-12 education and increasingly college campuses from Boston to California? “There’s money to be made there” is the old saw about economic opportunities, but electoral blocs spring into being when consistently summoned by candidates given to repetition. Will either of the final two Republicans turn their campaigns into crusades to reform a sclerotic and tenured school system?
Expect Haley to be on every radio channel, cable outlet and podcast that isn’t hosted by an extremist. Trump has an enormous media advantage, so the challenger has to accept almost every invitation offered. Haley has got to take her nearly 20% of the vote in Iowa, which she then more than doubled in New Hampshire, and turn that trend into majorities within six to eight weeks.
Anyone who can recall the long, bruising primary battle between then President Gerald Ford and former California Governor Ronald Reagan in the spring of 1976 will recollect it wasn’t over until it was over, and many twists and turns occurred along the way. Reagan even threw a “Hail Mary” pass of naming Senator Richard S. Schweiker of Pennsylvania as the Californian’s running mate before the convention. (It didn’t work, but would Haley consider the same play?)
What will matter the most in February and March are the personal jabs that grab headlines…and the issue set that Haley decides to elevate. The total reform of public education would be an excellent place to start.
Hugh Hewitt is one of the country’s leading journalists of the center-right. A son of Ohio and a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt has been a Professor of Law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law since 1996 where he teaches Constitutional Law. Hewitt launched his eponymous radio show from Los Angeles in 1990, and it is today syndicated to hundreds of stations and outlets across the country every Monday through Friday morning. Hewitt has frequently appeared on every major national news television network, hosted television shows for PBS and MSNBC, written for every major American paper, has authored a dozen books and moderated a score of Republican candidate debates, most recently the November 2023 Republican presidential debate in Miami and four Republican presidential debates in the 2015-16 cycle. Hewitt focuses his radio show and this column on the Constitution, national security, American politics and the Cleveland Browns and Guardians. Hewitt has interviewed tens of thousands of guests from Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump over his forty years in broadcast, and this column previews the lead story that will drive his radio show today.