Nikki Haley entered the conference hall of the Gateway Center in Richburg, SC and immediately sucked all of the oxygen out of the huge room. The overflow crowd at Congressman Ralph Norman’s campaign kickoff Monday night could not contain their enthusiasm – no, it was love – for the petite powerhouse who has been out of the spotlight since she stepped down as President Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Introducing Haley, Norman’s son, Warren, asked her, “How should I address you? Ambassador Haley? Governor Haley? Next President of the United States Haley?”
I have not seen a gathering so overpowered by a woman since I attended a Hillary Clinton event promoting HillaryCare back in the 1980s. But while I found the Hillary encounter completely frightening, Haley’s warm connection to her audience was a sharp contrast. She pointed out that she and her husband decided to stay in New York City to allow their son to graduate from his high school, but next year they will be moving back to South Carolina and he will attend Clemson, like his mom.
So what has Nikki Haley been doing lately? I mean, besides preparing to run for president in the 2024 election?
She wrote her second book, “With All Due Respect”, describing her experiences working in the Trump administration as ambassador to the United Nations. A sometimes-critic of Trump, Haley quit her governor post and accepted Trump’s invitation to the highly-visible ambassadorship, winning acclaim among conservatives for her fire-breathing speeches defending the USA and the Trump agenda before the UN delegates. During her tenure as ambassador there were latent questions about her loyalty to the president, but Monday night she made clear to Norman’s supporters that she joins the congressman in full support of Trump.
Last year Haley founded a conservative policy group “Stand for America” and cherry-picked Heritage Action president Tim Chapman for the lead role in that organization, an indication of her intention to run for president. Similarly, Marco Rubio snatched two Heritage Action top officials, Mike Needham and Dan Holler to anchor his 2024 campaign team.
As a South Carolina resident, I have followed Haley’s career with interest. I still see her as a very ambitious career politician and have lined up on the opposite side of her on some specific issues. Still, as a state representative and governor she was an outstanding administrator, a budget hawk, and her state government ran like a clock, famously answering every phone call with the chirpy greeting, “It’s a great day in South Carolina!”
My family band played for Norman’s Monday kickoff event, and we got to meet Haley for a brief visit backstage. I was surprised at how warm and down-to-earth she is. Especially after watching her bring a couple thousand very discerning conservatives to their knees. Nikki Haley is a force to be reckoned with in American politics. Maybe irresistible.
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
She’s a craze you’d endorse, she’s a powerful force
You’re obliged to conform when there’s no other cause
She used to look good to me, but now I find her
Robert Palmer – Simply Irresistible