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Watch out, mid-to-upper septuagenarians. Newly minted GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley has questions about your mental acuity!

The South Carolina governor and former U.N. ambassador formally launched her campaign Wednesday with, among other things, a call for “mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”

That line was surely aimed at pleasing Republicans who’ve convinced themselves that 80-year-old President Joe Biden is senile (while also being a devious criminal and an all-powerful leftist singlehandedly transforming America into a socialist hellscape). But it was also a shot at 76-year-old former President Donald Trump, a candidate as well, and at a sizable swath of the GOP’s most reliable base of voters.

Former U.N. Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during an event sponsored by Turning Point USA at Clemson University, on Nov. 29, 2022, in Clemson, S.C.

A Pew Research Center study of the 2020 presidential election found voters ages 75 to 92 were the only ones who clearly favored Trump over Biden, by 58% to 42%.

As a liberal, I can see why you might want to check the mental competency of anyone who supported Trump, but from a strategic point of view, launching your Republican campaign with a heavy dose of ageism seems unwise.

Haley 2024 – Unwise!

Of course “Unwise!” may as well be Haley’s campaign slogan, given that a new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed she’s supported by a non-whopping 4% of registered Republicans. And that was before she suggested people in their mid-70s might be incompetent.

Former President Donald Trump would also meet Nikki Haley's criteria for "needs mental competency test."

Former President Donald Trump would also meet Nikki Haley’s criteria for “needs mental competency test.”

In her speech, Haley called for “a new generation of leadership” while reciting what sounded like an “Every Republican Talking Point From The Last 40 Years” Mad Lib.

The South Carolina governor and GOP presidential candidate declares racism over!

The first woman of color to run for the Republican presidential nomination, Haley declared America is “not a racist country.” As she was saying that Wednesday, a white man in Buffalo was being sentenced to life in prison for killing 10 people in a racist mass shooting, admitting during the sentencing: “I shot and killed people because they were Black.”

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a security council meeting about the escalating tensions between the Ukraine and Russia at United Nations headquarters, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a security council meeting about the escalating tensions between the Ukraine and Russia at United Nations headquarters, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018.

Between that, a rise in anti-semitism and the fact that, according to Gallup polling, 64% of Americans “believe racism against Black people is widespread” in the United States, I’d say the jury’s still out on that whole “racist country” thing.

Hi, I’m Nikki Haley, and I’m not old like some people

But setting all stump-speech pablum aside, Haley made clear she’s going to leverage her age for advantage in the primary race. At 51, she’s 24 years away from requiring the kind of mental competency test she suggested, a fact I’m sure will weigh heavily on the minds of voters who think the average 75-year-old should be set adrift on an ice floe.

You can see the political ads now: “Hi, I’m Nikki Haley. Are you ready for a new generation of leadership? Do you think politicians like Joe Biden and my former boss who I would never insult, Donald Trump, should be sent upstate to farm pancakes and catch butterflies? Do you want a president who has the guts to look your pop-pop or mee-maw in the eyes and say, ‘You’ve reached an arbitrary age, so I no longer think your brain works right’? If so, and if you are under the age of 75, I’m asking for your vote.”

I can almost feel the Haley-mentum already. (If you’re over 75 and not feeling the Haley-mentum, please immediately get a mental competency test.)

Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook facebook.com/RexIsAJerk.

More from Rex Huppke:

Monday after the Super Bowl should be a national holiday of rest, shame and regret

‘Dark Brandon’ shows up at State of the Union, mops the floor with lost Republicans

USA TODAY food drive donates nearly 670,000 meals, columnist declares self ‘awesome’

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nikki Haley formally launches GOP presidential campaign




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