ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — In the early days of campaigning for the 2022 midterms, Rep. Young Kim, R-Calif., has received the endorsement of former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.
The endorsement may free up additional fundraising for Kim as she navigates newly redistricted territory.
“I really don’t see a big benefit,” said Adam Probolsky, a local pollster at Probolsky Research. “It checks off one of the 500 things you need to get elected, but I really don’t see much benefit.”
Haley has indicated an interest in running for the presidency in 2024 but has publicly said she would not challenge another run by former President Donald Trump.
Republicans hope they can capitalize on President Joe Biden’s sinking approval ratings, fueled by the enduring pandemic, a herky-jerky stock market and foreign affairs concerns with Russia.
Haley already endorsed Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Calif., in June, her first step into the competitive Orange County congressional environment.
Included in the endorsement was a statement from Kim:
"Republican women have been leading the charge to create pro-growth policies that help all Americans succeed and hold the Biden administration and Speaker Pelosi accountable for reckless domestic and foreign policy decisions that have left middle-class families behind and tainted our nation's global leadership. I'm proud to have the support of Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has helped pave the way for so many conservative women to run for office, win, and deliver results for U.S. communities. I thank Ambassador Haley for her endorsement and look forward to working together to take back the House in 2022 and get our country back on track," the statement said.
Kim has served on three committees in her term, including the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Following her efforts to find common ground with Democrats, she’s become a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which Probolsky said may be as likely to hurt her as help her. While it connects her to centrist ideas that may show her willingness to listen, it may also link her with calling-card ideas of left, anathema to Republican voters and donors.
Now Haley has endorsed over a dozen members of the House of Representatives, building a network of cooperation as she continues to assess her political future.
What that future looks like will hinge on name recognition.
“Nikki Haley is known to a few finite viewers of Fox News and a few people like me who are avid readers of the New York Times,” Probolsky said. “But I don’t see any local benefit.”
Haley has looked for ways to blunt criticism of her proximity to Trump while avoiding a wholesale denouncement of him. Kim has had to conduct her own balancing act.
Her first term in office has been spent navigating attacks from Democrats who call her a cog in the far-right machine while trying to appeal to centrist voters and fiscally conservative liberals. In 2020, she won California’s 39th District, defeating Democrat Gil Cisneros by just 3.2 points.
Now living in the newly drawn 40th Congressional District, Kim’s district will be more favorable to Republicans but, Probolsky said, might also encourage a strong primary challenge.
“If you asked me to bet right now, I’d say she gets reelected,” he said. “But I think a real challenger with real money in a primary could beat her.”