Nikki Haley utterly botched an answer about the cause of the Civil War at the worst possible time for her campaign


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  • Presidential candidates face plenty of questions on the campaign trail, some easier than others.
  • On Wednesday, for example, GOP candidate Nikki Haley was asked about the cause of the Civil War.
  • After failing to answer, “slavery,” she’s facing heat at the worst possible time in her campaign.


Many factors ultimately culminated in eleven southern US states seceding from the rest of the country in 1861 and instigating the Civil War, but surely, everyone can agree that ‘”slavery” was at the top of the list, or at the very least, enough of a reason to mention, right?

The short, unfortunate answer, is no.

Asked Wednesday night on the campaign trail in New Hampshire about what she felt the cause of the Civil War was, rising Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said it was “basically about how the government is run, the freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do.”

After the audience member who started the conversation said it’s “astonishing to me that you answered that question without mentioning the word ‘slavery,” Haley simply retorted, “What do you want me to say about slavery?”


Later, after receiving immediate criticism for her comments, Haley finally seemed to have figured it out: people expected her to say that slavery was a critical factor in the Civil War.

Using this newfound information, she then spoke to several news outlets to walk back her earlier remarks.

“Of course, the Civil War was about slavery,” Haley said on a call with The Pulse of NH. “We know that. That’s the easy part of it. What I was saying was what does it mean to us today? What it means to us today is about freedom. That’s what that was all about. It was about individual freedom. It was about economic freedom. It was about individual rights. Our goal is to make sure, no, we never go back to the stain of slavery.”

Later, in an interview with Politico, she accused the unnamed member of the audience who inquired about the Civil War of being planted by the Democratic Party to hurt her campaign.


“It was definitely a Democrat plant,” Haley said. “That’s why I said, what does it mean to you? And if you notice, he didn’t answer anything. The same reason he didn’t tell the reporters what his name was.”

Missing out on the easiest possible win imaginable

When running for office, especially president of the United States, candidates are asked thousands of questions whilst on the campaign trail as prospective voters try to suss out the best person for the job.

Among the slog of questions are what are known as “softballs,” or ones that are predictable, not too challenging to answer, and usually wind up being a great opportunity for a viral clip on the candidates’s social media accounts. Examples include:


Or as the person on Wednesday who asked Haley did, they can also be about seminal moments throughout US history like, “What was the cause of the United States Civil War?”

Haley’s inability to even hit a single with this softball question is a serious missed opportunity for her presidential campaign.

At the bare minimum, all Haley had to say once was “slavery.” It was good enough for Lincoln, it should be good enough for Haley.

But she didn’t.


She could have used the opportunity to shame Democrats in the Confederacy, laud the Grand Old Party, and invoke Republican President Abraham Lincoln —whom historians voted the best president in US history — for leading the charge to ban slavery.

But she didn’t.

Instead, with her vague response, she seemingly tried to woo both sides of her party— the 36% of Republicans who think the Civil War was all about “states rights” and the 53% who believe it was about slavery all along.

Toeing the line the party line on topics is acceptable, even commendable, at times. But for something as clear as this, where the answer is unassailably cut and dry, Haley botched it.


And with the Iowa caucuses and the rest of the GOP primaries slated to begin in just a few short weeks and after she and her campaign have vociferously competed for second place in the polls, she’s stumbling at the exact wrong time.

Nikki Haley utterly botched an answer about the cause of the Civil War at the worst possible time for her campaign

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