Nikki Haley launched her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination last week. She called for generational change in Washington and a rejection of “identity politics” that she says divides the United States.
Speaking from Charleston, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador struck themes intended to resonate with Republican voters. Haley is the first major GOP (Grand Old Party, the nickname of the Republican Party) challenger to former President Donald Trump.
Haley blasted President Joe Biden and Democrats as too liberal. She made appeals for unity and criticized corporate bailouts.
Haley says Republicans repeatedly lost the popular vote in recent elections because they “failed to win the confidence of a majority of Americans.” The solution, she says, is to “put your trust in a new generation.”
“America is not past its prime,” she told a crowd of several hundred people gathered near Charleston’s visitor center. “It’s just that our politicians are past theirs.”
Her comments were an obvious criticism of President Biden. At 80, he is the oldest president in history. That fact that makes even some Democrats uneasy. It was also a slight to Trump, who has launched a third White House bid.
Trump is 76. Haley says she would support a “mandatory mental competency test for politicians over 75 years old.”
In her remarks, Haley criticized President Biden’s leadership. She mentioned the chaotic withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, North Korea’s launch of missiles, heightened Russian aggression, and an emboldened China. Haley also spoke about the national security credentials she gained at the United Nations.
“Today, our enemies think that the American era has passed,” she says. “They’re wrong.”
While Haley is the first major Republican to officially challenge Trump, she won’t be the last. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence are among those expected to launch campaigns. Haley’s fellow South Carolinian, Senator Tim Scott, also weighs a White House bid.
As in 2016, a crowded field could work to Trump’s advantage. It could allow him to march to the nomination while his opponents divide support among themselves.
Haley made clear that she would seek to distinguish herself in the GOP field in part by emphasizing her biography. She spoke of growing up in a small South Carolina town as the daughter of immigrants who experienced racist taunts. Still, she insisted that America was not a “racist country.”
By unveiling her campaign in Charleston, Haley sought to show some strength in her home state. South Carolina holds a critical early primary that influences the GOP nomination.
Those in the crowd said they were excited by the prospect of a Haley presidency. Retiree Connie Campbell says she is all-in for the former governor. She says Haley has “so much to offer.”
If elected, Haley would be the first woman to assume the presidency. She is also counted by many as a woman of color due to her South Asian heritage. Haley’s parents emigrated from India to the United States in the 1960s. She embraced that as a historic fact—to an extent. She says she rejects identity politics. In that approach, someone uses an aspect of his or her identity to develop an agenda.
Still, Haley wore white on stage in a nod to the suffragette movement and emphasized her gender as she wrapped up her remarks.
“As I set out on this new journey,” she announced, “I will simply say this: ‘May the best woman win.’”
There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. — Romans 13:1
(Nikki Haley launches her 2024 presidential campaign on February 15, 2023, in Charleston, South Carolina. Haley is a former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador. AP/Meg Kinnard)