Nikki Haley seeks historic GOP presidential nomination

Former South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley waves during a campaign event at the Charleston Visitor Center in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 15. Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images

By Akua Devall

Boston University News Service 

If she wins the GOP primary, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley would be the Republican Party’s first woman and the first Asian American nominee for president. But Haley has been staunchly against using identity politics in her campaign, rejecting the idea of being defined by her ethnicity and gender.  

Haley stated to voters that “she doesn’t believe in the glass ceiling,” and that “America has never been a racist country” during an interview with Fox News on Jan. 16. 

But these views haven’t stopped Haley from being a target of attacks due to her identity. Her opponent, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, referred to her as “Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels” during the third GOP primary debate. Additionally, former President Donald Trump took racially-charged jabs at Haley; repeatedly referring to her as “Nimbra” in a post to his social media outlet Truth Social on Jan. 19, referencing her birth name, Nimirata, of Indian origin. 

Haley grew up as the daughter of Indian immigrants in Bamberg, South Carolina. “The railroad tracks divided the town by race,” she said in her campaign launch video. “My mom would always say, ‘your job is not to focus on the differences but the similarities.’ And my parents reminded me and my siblings every day how blessed we were to live in America.” 

When she was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004, and later elected as governor of the state in 2010, she became the first woman and person of color to do so in South Carolina history. She resigned in the middle of her second term as governor to become a United Nations ambassador under the Trump administration, a role she held until the end of 2018. Soon after, Haley accepted a position on the board of Boeing, though resigned a year later.

Haley announced her bid for president on Feb. 14, 2023, running on her political experience domestically as governor and internationally as UN ambassador. Haley has a record of fiscal conservatism: voting against a cigarette sales surtax three times as a congresswoman, and leading the effort to cut the U.S.’s UN budget by nearly $300 million.

With Florida Gov. Ron Desantis dropping out of the race on Jan. 21, Haley is now the last candidate standing between Trump and his third consecutive Republican nomination. The New Hampshire primary comes after Trump’s victory of over 30 points in the Iowa caucus, with Haley finishing behind DeSantis in third.

A win in New Hampshire is crucial to give Haley’s campaign continued momentum with South Carolina’s primary on Feb. 24 and Super Tuesday on March 5, but a loss could quicken the speed at which the Republican Party rallies around Trump as the official nominee. This is especially because Trump has three former GOP challengers — Ramaswamy, DeSantis, and Sen. Tim Scott — endorsing him. As of Jan. 22, Trump leads New Hampshire polls at 50.8%, while Haley is over 10 points behind at 36.6% just one day before the race begins, according to polling averages calculated by 538, a political analysis website

“There are all sorts of folks who’ve come through over the years who’ve had great biographies, great resumes, perfect experience, but for whatever reason just didn’t click,” said Chris Galdieri, a professor at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “I think Haley’s gotten really far, but it might just be the case that she’s hit her ceiling already.”

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