There are rumors across the nation that the GOP is actively considering South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to be its vice presidential candidate after her handling of the June 17 Charleston shooting and its aftermath. Politicians and pundits alike applauded Haley, a 43-year-old Indian-American, for raising bipartisan support to take down the controversial Confederate flag from state grounds. Some predicted the buzz could carry over into a 2016 nomination.
David Beasley, the last Republican governor who took on the Confederate flag, which had fluttered in front of the 19th-century capitol building for 54 years, in 1996 “lost his job,” noted Politico, an influential Washington news site, but “Nikki Haley may get a promotion.”
“Her VP stock is probably on the rise again at the moment,” Republican analyst Ford O’Connell told the Hill, going on to say that she could appeal to young, female and minority voters — groups the GOP has historically had trouble capturing. “She could stop the bleeding of women to Hillary Clinton,” he added.
The move attracted praise immediately, but it also fed speculation about Haley’s future. Her term in South Carolina runs through January 2019, though many have wondered if she’ll cut her time short to run in 2016.
Haley herself has remained quiet on the issue. After winning re-election last year, she wrote a statement that “speculation is just that.” In 2013, at a campaign stop attended by GOP contenders Rick Perry, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, she was more specific, telling reporters her campaign for governor didn’t mean “something national.”
“Haley’s decisive action to drive the final removal of the banner from statehouse grounds quickly and relatively cleanly in the glare of the national spotlight proved a well-timed audition for higher office ahead of the 2016 Republican veepstakes,” it suggested. “Nikki showed leadership in this instance, and she represents a new Republican face in the South,” strategist Steve Schmidt, who managed John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid, told Politico.
“Campaign 2016 has already devolved into theatre and absurdity,” wrote Doug Heye, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee, in the Wall Street Journal but “Haley recently showed that politics and government can still live up to our best ideals.”
“Haley’s words, actions, poise, and determination-her courage-over the past month have helped her state heal,” he said noting “Speculation has increased about her potential as 2016 vice-presidential nominee.”
“Other state figures had faltered when confronting the legacy of the Confederate flag and pushing for its removal. But Haley’s quick call for it to be taken off has allowed her to bask in glowing reviews,” said CNN.
“The once-rising star, whose shine had faded after her 2010 gubernatorial victory, has emerged from the flag battle as the face of the ‘new South,’” it said. Shortly after the removal of the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds, Haley told CNN that placing the flag there in 2000 was a poor decision.
“I think the more important part is it should have never been there,” she said. “These grounds are a place that everybody should feel a part of. What I realized now more than ever is people were driving by and felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain.”
Haley, the youngest current governor in the US and the first woman and the first Indian American to serve as Governor of South Carolina, had previously been a supporter of the flag as a symbol of Southern heritage honoring residents’ ancestors.
But it was after a week of funerals for the nine churchgoers who were gunned down by a white man in a historic black church in Charleston with the alleged intent of “starting a race war” that Haley said she decided that the flag had to come down.
“The biggest reason I asked for that flag to come down was I couldn’t look my children in the face and justify it staying there,” she was quoted as saying.
“Now there’s more reason to come to this state. I am proud to say that it’s a new day in South Carolina.”