A consultant for the Republican establishment, who wrongly predicted that former President Trump would not be the GOP presidential nominee in 2015, is now calling former United Nations (UN) Ambassador Nikki Haley the “front-runner” for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
GOP consultant Alex Castellanos — whose clients have included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, former President George W. Bush, and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) during his failed 2008 presidential bid — claims Haley is leading the GOP slate of potential candidates for 2024.
“I think Nikki Haley is the front-runner and it’s going to be very hard to stop her,” Castellanos said in an interview with the Carlos Watson Show. “I think she’s underestimated.”
“I think a lot of the politicians in Washington say, ‘Oh, not really a heavyweight candidate.’ I think she’s the real deal and she’s going to be, I think, the horse to beat,” Castellano said.
Castellanos, as Breitbart News reported in August 2015, wrongly predicted that Trump would never become the Republican nominee for president, much less go on to win in 2016 against Democrat Hillary Clinton, and that an anti-populist Republican would become the nominee.
Castellanos said in a 2015 interview on CNN:
In a general election though, Trump is not going to be the nominee. When he leaves, he’ll be defeated by an anti-Trump. So, there will be a cleansing that’ll go on, in the — once he is knocked out of primaries. And I think you will see a new, and better, and more optimistic, solution-oriented Republican Party going into the general election.
At the time, Castellano claimed Trump’s reformist approach to immigration — advocating for less immigration to tighten the labor market, boost wages, and open jobs for Americans — would lose him support. As the 2016 presidential election showed, the issue bolstered him to victory. Castellano claimed:
In a general election — look, right now, [Trump’s support for ending birthright citizenship] hurts the Republican Party. If you think the Republican Party hasn’t alienated enough Hispanics, enough women, enough young voters, why, Donald Trump’s immigration plan is going to be great for you. You’re going to love that.
Days after the interview, Castellano recanted in order to win favor with Trump’s inner circle to score consulting gigs for the campaign. Still, as the New York Times reported in February 2016, Castellano was a part of a last-ditch effort by consultants in late 2015 to take down Trump:
Late last fall, the strategists Alex Castellanos and Gail Gitcho, both presidential campaign veterans, reached out to dozens of the party’s leading donors, including the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and the hedge-fund manager Paul Singer, with a plan to create a “super PAC” that would take down Mr. Trump. In a confidential memo, the strategists laid out the mission of a group they called “ProtectUS.” [Emphasis added]
“We want voters to imagine Donald Trump in the Big Chair in the Oval Office, with responsibilities for worldwide confrontation at his fingertips,” they wrote in the previously unreported memo. Mr. Castellanos even produced ads portraying Mr. Trump as unfit for the presidency, according to people who saw them and who, along with many of those interviewed, insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations. [Emphasis added]
The two strategists, who declined to comment, proposed to attack Mr. Trump in New Hampshire over his business failures and past liberal positions, and emphasized the extreme urgency of their project. A Trump nomination would not only cause Republicans to lose the presidency, they wrote, “but we also lose the Senate, competitive gubernatorial elections and moderate House Republicans.” [Emphasis added]
Ahead of the GOP convention in 2016, Castellano advocated for siphoning delegates away from Trump to support former House Speaker Paul Ryan, a favorite of the donor class and economic libertarians.
“Why not wipe the slate clean and go for what delegates really want, the Republican Speaker? Former Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan is a larger political figure,” Castellano wrote in an email blast. “He has national experience and appeal.”
Haley in recent weeks has attacked Trump’s post-election fight to challenge state election certifications, citing voting irregularities and fraud. Last week, for instance, Haley said Trump does not have a place in the future of the Republican Party despite winning the support of 75 million Americans in the 2020 presidential election.
“I don’t think he’s going to be in the picture,” Haley said. “I don’t think he can. He’s fallen so far. We need to acknowledge he let us down. He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him.”
Haley also said she was “disgusted” by Trump’s criticism of former Vice President Mike Pence after he failed to stop the certification of last year’s election in the U.S. Senate.
“Never did I think he would spiral out like this,” Haley continued. “I don’t feel like I know who he is anymore … the person that I worked with is not the person that I have watched since the election.”
Haley, despite national name recognition as a result of her role in the Trump administration, is polling at six percent — just two percentage points higher than Romney — among Republican primary voters in the latest Morning Consult/Politico survey. Trump, on the other hand, is polling at 53 percent.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter here.