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Minnesotans, we have an opportunity to be that political gray duck again. But not the crazy Mondale, Ventura, Franken, Ellison political gray duck of past Minnesota elections. No, instead we could be the political gray duck that leads the American electorate flock toward a future of conservative, pragmatic policies focused on economic opportunity, national security and reigniting the pride in being an American. That opportunity comes March 5, when all Minnesotans — I say again, all Minnesotans who are eligible to vote — have an opportunity to cast a vote for Nikki Haley.

Why Haley? Simply put:

• She's the best presidential candidate.

• She'll win in November.

• "The name on the front … ."

Let's look more closely at each.

Nikki Haley is the best presidential candidate

Haley has the leadership qualities, mental acuity and moral clarity to excel as president. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump clearly do not. As the former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Haley has proven her ability to develop and champion policies that improve American lives and create a more secure world.

As governor, her tax cuts coupled with investments in job creation and educational opportunities turned South Carolina's economy into the "Beast of the Southeast." As ambassador, she went head-to-head with the world's worst dictators and established tools to curtail their ruthless behavior and hold China, Russia, Iran and North Korea accountable. Her experiences as a daughter of immigrants, wife of a service member, mother, governor and ambassador all contribute to her ability to hear people's concerns with empathy as well as identify, develop and implement solutions. She is the principled, trusted leader ready to unite, not divide, Americans.

The other candidates? Well, there are only three people — sorry, Dean Phillips — who have mathematically relevant odds higher than yours or mine to be our next president: Trump, Biden and Haley. One cannot argue with a straight face that Biden, at 81, has the mental or physical capacity to excel as our president today, let alone for 4½ more years until Jan. 20, 2029, when — then 86 — he would complete a second term. The 77-year-old Trump, not exactly a spry candidate himself, is limited by his own ego more than by age. Trump continually puts Trump above country in actions and words. America needs a new leader, from a new generation, with a strong sense of what it means to lead the United States of America.

Haley will win in November

Poll after poll shows that Haley would beat Joe Biden decisively. The latest, a Marquette Poll last week, put that at a 16-point margin. Regardless of your personal feelings toward Trump, he generates a passionate reaction one way or another. This spurs the three Ms — voter motivation, money and media — that combine to create the overall election dynamics that have led to Republicans losing election after election since 2018. Looking at the data, I believe it is crystal-clear that Trump will not win in 2024. But, ignoring history, surveys and every other election indicator, it is still obvious on Trump's best day, a race against Biden is a coin flip. A 50-50-coin flip for the future of our country.

Meanwhile, Haley, who aligns with 90% of the conservative, pragmatic policies that strengthened America during the Trump administration, is a sure thing. So, Republicans, conservatives, moderates, independents and, yes, even Democrats — all Minnesotans who believe in freedom, prosperity and opportunity and feel our country is headed in the wrong direction — here is your choice: Take the sure win with Nikki Haley in 2024 or leave America's future up to a coin flip. Haley will beat Biden and bring smart, tested policies with her to the White House that will secure our border, bring back the rule of law, make life affordable, strengthen our national security, and spark our economy with American ingenuity, not government spending.

To party purists who may be concerned that I just recommended that Democrats cross over to support Haley, you are correct, I absolutely did. Although, instead of the term "cross over," I would say I welcome their consideration of a new political tent. As the Democratic Party, as well as their 81-year-old candidate, wander further and further left, is this not an opportune moment for Minnesotans of the DFL to re-examine their party affiliation and feel comfortable to change, or at a minimum question things? In our democracy, political party affiliation was never meant to be indelible — in fact just the opposite. A healthy democracy is reliant on freethinking individuals. To receive a Republican primary ballot on March 5, one simply declares themselves to be "in general agreement with the principles of the party." These GOP principles include "freedom, prosperity and opportunity." Political party affiliation should never trump what is in the best interest of our country. As President George Washington warned in his farewell address in 1796, the spirit of party is a "fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume."

"When you pull on that jersey, the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the name on the back." (Herb Brooks)

The 2024 presidential election is not about Trump, nor Biden, nor Haley; it is about America. It is about which candidate is best for our country. It is about Americans who can no longer afford the life they once had, about Americans who no longer feel safe to stroll Nicollet Mall, about Americans concerned with the insecurity around the world and on our own border, about Americans who no longer speak to one another, about the 76% of Americans who believe our country is headed in the wrong direction. The new direction is on the primary ballot, and with 93% of the delegates still up for grabs, it is not too late to start the turn.

So, Minnesotans: Duck, duck, go out and vote, and let the North Star State lead America in the right direction.

Tom Weiler is a 20-year veteran of the Submarine Force. He completed multiple submarine and aircraft carrier deployments across the Indo-Pacific and Middle East, as well as tours at the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, Pacific Fleet and U.S. European Command. Following retirement from the Navy, he ran for Congress in Minnesota's Third District in 2022.