El Dorado News-Times

Haley ‘has what it takes,’ say South Carolina Republican­s

- Salena Zito is a CNN political analyst and a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. She reaches the Everyman and Everywoman through shoe-leather journalism, traveling from Main Street to the beltway and all places in between. SALENA ZIT

Former Ambassador to the United Nations and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) made it clear last week that she is eyeing a run for the Republican nomination for president. She told Fox News anchor Bret Baier she doesn’t think you need to be an 80-year-old to be a leader in Washington, D.C.

“I think we need a young generation to come in, step up, and really start fixing things,” she said. “Do I think I could be that leader? Yes, but we are still working through things, and we’ll figure it out.”

That sounds like someone inching closer to announcing a run, 13 years after she stunned the South Carolina Republican establishm­ent by winning the party’s nomination for governor in one of the most dramatic gubernator­ial races that cycle.

After coming up just short of a majority in the first round of the primary, she trounced four-term congressma­n Gresham Barrett 65% to 35% in the runoff.

During that race, Haley had to fight off vicious whisper campaigns about both her marriage and her Christian faith to become the first nonwhite governor of South Carolina.

Although many national and local experts had written off her chances, Haley turned out to be a much more formidable political force than anyone expected.

Haley stepped down from the governor’s office in 2017 when then-President Donald Trump nominated her to be his ambassador to the United Nations. Although she has said previously she will not seek the party’s nomination if her former boss runs, South Carolina Republican­s not associated with her campaign argued she should take the home team advantage in the first in the South primary and go for it.

In an interview Haley gave to the Washington Examiner in October at a campaign event in Delaware County, Pennsylvan­ia, the former U.N. ambassador said she has become used to being underestim­ated. “I have never lost an election,” she said bluntly, shrugging.

Haley has remained popular among South Carolina Republican voters. Last year, she proved she still has influence when she backed Republican congresswo­man Nancy Mace in a Palmetto State primary over the Trumpbacke­d Katie Arrington in a highly competitiv­e 1st Congressio­nal District primary.

Haley committed herself to the race, too, cutting ads, campaignin­g with Mace and raising money for her.

Many South Carolina politicos watched with interest as Haley proved she could take on Trump in her own backyard — even if it was by proxy — and beat him by eight percentage points.

Sen. Tim Scott (R), who became the first black congressma­n and two years later the first black U.S. senator from South Carolina since Reconstruc­tion, is the state’s most popular currently elected politician, said Dawson.

“He came up the same year Haley ran and won the gubernator­ial race,” Dawson said adding he is not sure if Scott has plans to run for the White House.

This Saturday, Trump will hold a campaign-style event here in South Carolina — his first in the first in the South primary state and second that day — he will hold an event in New Hampshire earlier in the day — marking his first full campaign swing of the 2024 cycle since announcing his intentions to run in November.

Neither Haley nor Scott will be in attendance for the Trump event; he will be joined by Gov. Henry McMaster (R) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R).

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick said in an interview with the Washington Examiner that there has been a slew of GOP hopefuls visiting the state in the past few months, and he has no expectatio­ns that brisk pace is going to slow down.

“Asa Hutchinson was here,” McKissick said of the former governor of Arkansas. “So has former CIA director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former Vice President Mike Pence has been here multiple times.”

“And of course, Sen. Scott’s from here and Governor Haley is as well, we get a lot of that traffic, which folks in our party love because you have a lot of county party meetings and get good, up-close, personal meetings and dinners with potential candidates as they go around looking for people to join their campaign, volunteer, fill out staff. Voters also get to kick the tires.”

McKissick said South

Carolina Republican primary voters are a good mix of the conservati­ve coalition.

“We’ve got the strongest military presence, we’ve got the upstate of South Carolina with more of an emphasis on social conservati­ves and low country with the tourism industry down there where folks are maybe a little more fiscally conservati­ve, not maybe so much as socially conservati­ve as the upstate,” he explained.

“And there are a lot of retirees along the coast, and then you have university presence here in Columbia and in the upstate,” he said. “It’s a really good microcosm of the Republican Party writ large and not incredibly expensive to campaign in.”

Mace wasn’t the only candidate for whom Haley raised money and campaigned last cycle. Between primary season and the fall midterm elections, she traveled to battlegrou­nd states to campaign for Republican candidates running for House and Senate in an effort to help build the majorities.

“She was out there to help over a hundred candidates across the country,” Dawson said. “All of that takes time and money, and fundraisin­g and that also builds infrastruc­ture.”

“She has what it takes to make a go of it,” he concluded. “I cannot tell you whether she is going to win, but I learned a long time ago to take her seriously.”

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