South Carolina governor Nikki Haley endorses Mitt Romney for U.S. president

Saturday, December 17, 2011

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley in 2010.
Image: Albert N. Milliron.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Image: Jessica Rinaldi.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley endorsed Republican Party (GOP) presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney yesterday at an event in Greenville, South Carolina. According to The Washington Post, the widely-sought support of the Tea Party-backed Haley reflects a softening of conservative concerns about Romney, who is considered a moderate in the race. He currently trails former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, which will hold its primary election on January 21.

Haley, who is of Indian descent, is the first female governor of South Carolina. She is considered a possible 2012 Vice presidential nominee and potential 2016 presidential candidate. She said that while there is not a "perfect candidate" for the 2012 race, Romney is "a leader that knows what he wants to do the first day he gets into office." Haley's belief that Romney will repeal Obamacare ultimately led to her support.

Romney has remained consistently high in polls since entering the race earlier this year, but has not been able to solidify conservative support, due in part to the view that the health care reform he instituted in Massachusetts was similar to Obamacare. Recently, Newt Gingrich has risen in the polls as the latest anti-Romney candidate, but has come under attack for providing consulting service to Freddie Mac. Gingrich holds a double-digit lead in South Carolina.

According Steve Schmidt, an adviser to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, Romney has “weathered a turbulent period and seem[s] to have regained equilibrium in the context of the Gingrich surge." However, Gingrich supporters do not give much credence to the Haley endorsement: state co-director Leslie Gaines commented, "We have the whole Tea Party support which got her elected." As a state legislator, Haley also endorsed Romney in 2008.

Haley and Romney are currently on a two day campaign tour of South Carolina on Romney's plane, which his wife Ann refers to as "Hair Force One".