On Friday morning, Haley revealed she would back former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s candidacy, as she did in 2008. But the question remained whether her endorsement will matter in her own state.
Within her party, Haley eludes factions, slips confines — to the point that former allies wonder whether her main agenda is her own advancement. Tea party activists, who helped her get elected, and business-first pragmatists, who helped her get staffed up as governor, doubt that she’s one of them. Instead, Haley promotes herself as a party of one, yanking her stubborn state toward new days and new ways. Her ways.
In person, she cuts an indefatigable and glamourous figure. She eschews a Church Lady mien for something more Real Housewife: fit, attractive and encased in suits that stop just below the elbow and just above the knee. And she says often how her job is sales, selling corporate chief executives on South Carolina with many lures.
The morning after her Orangeburg school visit, Haley sat upright with legs crossed in her ornate Statehouse offices as she boasted that her state is different simply because she’s running it. The Confederate battle flag still waves outside the building, and yet she doesn’t want it taken down and doesn’t worry that any CEO she solicits to hire South Carolinians will balk at this Civil War vestige.
“They don’t have to ask that question because you are looking at a state that just elected a 38-year-old Indian female,” she said. “That says everything we need it to say.”
Haley rat-a-tatted through her seductive pitch: “What I’m saying is, if you come to South Carolina, the cost of doing business is going to be low here. We are going to make sure that you have a loyal, willing workforce and we are going to continue to be one of the lowest union-participation states in the country. And, by the way, here’s my personal cell number, and the second that something goes wrong, call me directly.” And they do.
Early in Haley’s underdog campaign last year, no one was returning her calls, she said. She faced three opponents. She was yoked to a sullied ex-governor (“I was seen as ‘Sanford in a dress,’ ” she said of the comparisons to Mark Sanford, who didn’t seek reelection after admitting adultery). Her own semi-scandalous sideshow erupted and abated in the summer of 2010, when her onetime campaign consultant alleged (and never proved) that years before, the two had had a messy affair.