Nikki Haley is staying in the race for the Republican nomination, at least for now.
Why? If she only cares about becoming president, this year could be her best shot even with Trump way ahead of her in the polls. Trump may be convicted or become incapacitated, and she could win the nomination as the last woman standing. It is far from clear her political brand will be in better shape with Republican primary voters 4 years from now. She may also genuinely believe Trump is dangerous and want to derail his candidacy, or she may just want to poke Trump in the eye. In any event, she could do serious damage to Trump’s general election prospects by emphasizing his cognitive decline and goading him into overreacting to her perceived insolence.
Meanwhile Trump is damaging himself. He is petulant, self absorbed, divisive, scary, and very possibly suffering from some form of dementia. And let’s not even talk about his personal hygiene. (Are the rumors true? I have no idea. But we can still talk about it, and so can Democratic surrogates. I doubt Trump will react well.)
Trump’s effort to scuttle the bipartisan Senate deal to reduce immigration flows and fund Ukraine is politically insane. Biden has already announced he will close down the border if Congress gives him the authority to do so. So now they are going to refuse to let Biden control immigration, for openly obstructionist, partisan reasons?
Immigration was an issue that appeared to get away from Biden. He needed to push for compromise much sooner, not in the expectation that anything would get done, which was always unlikely, but to position himself as a moderate willing to compromise and to blame the Republicans for problems on the border. Biden missed that opportunity, now Trump is giving it back to him.
What does this mean for Ukraine? Maybe the border/Ukraine deal will go through. Majorities in both houses of Congress want aid to Ukraine (I think), and Republicans may realize that they have boxed themselves into a corner. However, it is still unclear what will happen, especially in the House, where the new Speaker will be under pressure from his extremists not to bring the bill to the floor.
If Speaker Johnson will not bring a Senate deal to the floor of the House, what leverage do the Democrats have, beyond bashing Republicans for playing politics? I haven’t studied this and am not on top of the procedural rules, but I’ll throw out one possibility: If Johnson kills aid to Ukraine, Biden could veto the budget bills until Johnson allows an up or down vote on Ukraine (with the border package and aid to Israel, presumably). This would be a risky move; shutting down the government is never popular. But asking for an up or down vote on a package that many Americans support doesn’t seem like political suicide. The alternative is disastrous for Ukraine and for the United States’ role in the world.