Republicans have selected South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to deliver the GOP’s response to the State of the Union address next Tuesday.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made the announcement Tuesday afternoon, praising Haley’s leadership in South Carolina and hat-tipping her economic record.
But there are other advantages in choosing Haley as the Republican alternative, especially in a high-stakes election year that has so far been dominated by Donald Trump.
Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, has emerged as a valuable face for the Republican Party as a woman and minority – the first of either to hold South Carolina’s highest office. At 43, she is also the youngest-serving governor in the country. And in the last year, the governor was tested in the national spotlight at critical times.
Haley is often mentioned as a potential vice presidential pick – and her state will be front-and-center in picking a Republican presidential nominee (the South Carolina primary is Feb. 20). She is the first South Carolinian to give the official SOTU response.
Last year, Haley and South Carolina became the focus of the nation after a gunman shot and killed nine people gathered for a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. President Obama went to Charleston to deliver the eulogy at the funeral of one of the victims, and the tragedy is one reason the president pushed for further gun controls.
But Haley has remained resolute in her opposition to Obama’s efforts to expand background checks and introduce other gun control measures.
She has toed the party line in other key fights, speaking out against Obama’s proposals to resettle Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States – a South Carolina Navy brig is one of the proposed host sites – and offer more Syrian refugees refuge, asking the State Department not to resettle any Syrian refugees in South Carolina after initially seeming open to the idea. She has been an outspoken critic of labor unions, taking a lead role in campaigning against a bid by workers at a Boeing plant to unionize earlier this year, and she has refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act – a continued stance for which Democrats have chastised her as they campaign in the state.
In a statement released by the Republican congressional leaders, Haley said she was “honored” to deliver the Republican rebuttal.
“In a year when the country is crying out for a positive vision and alternative to the status quo, Governor Haley is the exact right choice to deliver the Republican Address to the Nation,” Ryan said in a statement.
“Not only as Governor Haley fought to bring opportunity and prosperity to the people of her state, but she’s also demonstrated how bringing people together can bring real results,” McConnell said. “Governor Haley knows the American Dream and wants to see every American share in it, and we’re pleased that she will be delivering this year’s Republican Address.”