Nikki Haley: From the House of Representatives to the Senate – What She Did She Tell Us About Changing the Presidential Elections
I first met Nikki Haley during her initial run for governor of South Carolina in 2010 at a luncheon at Magnolia’s, a Myrtle Beach buffet-style restaurant popular with the locals. Most people in the state didn’t know that she was a former member of the state House of Representatives.
Haley is in a good position. She embodies the party spirit. She made Trump look stronger and weaker. She will need to climb a mountain of her own to win the nomination.
Why Didn’t We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland: An Observationary Analysis of South Carolina Governor Issac Bailey
Editor’s Note: Issac Bailey is a longtime journalist based in South Carolina and the Batten Professor for Communication Studies at Davidson College. His latest book is “Why Didn’t We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland.” The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
The luncheon was being hosted in the aftermath of the scandal plaguing South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who had snuck out of the country to see his mistress but told his staff he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. After listening to Haley give a fairly routine stump speech, I asked Haley, if she won, would she resign as governor if she made as big a misstep as Sanford had.
As governor of South Carolina, she never messed up like Sanford, who also had strong presidential prospects before his escapades. She messed up when she decided to embrace Donald Trump, instead of keeping him at arm’s length, as was implied by the proof that most of the Republicans were willing to bend over backwards for him.
Even though Haley wants to get into the race, Donald Trump remains the top candidate for the nomination. His loyal supporters will not abandon him just because of a loss in 2020 and a bad cycle for candidates in the future.
In 2013, then-Gov. Haley and a Republican-dominated General Assembly denied the expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act to hundreds of thousands of low-income South Carolinians. She even opposed creating a statewide health care exchange under that law.
About 40% of the state’s uninsured adults would have received health coverage under an expansion, as well as low-wage workers in retail and hospitality who are concentrated in Horry County, home to resort destination Myrtle Beach, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
A White House study said expansion could have saved about 200 lives in the state every year through early detection and treatment. The state could have added more than 44,000 jobs by 2020 if the federal government had invested in the Medicaid expansion.
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The Republican Party has come to define itself on the issue of abortion due to Haley’s stand in the way of life-saving Obamacare.
The top marginal income tax rate for the wealthiest South Carolinians should be lowered in exchange for an increase in the gas fee, as proposed by Haley. And she kept pushing for tax cuts even in her final budget proposal. She didn’t get her way a lot.
Of course, many of her supporters point to her handling of the Confederate flag as a sign of her sincere commitment to the people of South Carolina, and particularly the Black community.
She had not taken any steps to have the flag lowered before that ugly night in Charleston. There was a time when she said Roof had hijacked the meaning of the flag that some South Carolinas embraced as part of their proud heritage.
Then Haley reversed course when Trump became the nominee, and she landed the type of position in his administration that would provide her with the foreign policy experience she’d need for a presidential run: US ambassador to the United Nations. She could have lied if she said she had taken the position to serve her country.
Her approach seemed to work. She had good standing among staunch Trump supporters but had not alienated those who considered themselves moderates and Never Trumpers when she left her position at the UN. I was fascinated by the things she had pulled off, as a South Carolina voter who had sworn off the Republican Party.
Haley defended South Carolina against allegations that flying the flag of traitors who tried to establish a new country built on the premise of black enslavement harmed the state’s image. You lose version of identity politics.
The first Indian-American female governor, Haley said, fixed all that when she was elected. “When we appointed the first African-American U.S. senator [Tim Scott], that sent a huge message.”