US Republican leader Nikki Haley on Tuesday announced her presidential campaign, becoming the second politician so far to enter the race for White House.
In the US presidential elections, candidates first secure the nomination in their parties before facing off the candidate of the other party in the actual elections. Haley is challenging former President Donald Trump for Republican nomination who announced his candidacy last year.
Though President Joe Biden has not formally announced reelection bid, he has dropped hints that he would seek reelection. The winner of the Republican nomination will thus likely challenge Biden in the 2024 US presidential election.
Haley is a senior Republican leader who previously served two tenures as governor and also served as the US envoy at the United Nations (UN).
Here we trace the political journey of Haley, explain her political and policy views, and explain why she is an interesting contender for White House.
Who is Nikki Haley?
Nikki Haley was born on January 20, 1972 in US state of South Carolina to Indian immigrants parents. Her original name was Nimrata Nikki Randhawa.
Haley's parents ran a small store that evolved into a highly succesful clothing and gift venture that she also later joined.
The Britannica Encyclopaedia says that she began working at the parents' business as a teenager, and, after studying accounting at Clemson University, she resumed her position at the family business.
Haley is the first woman of colour to run for Republican Party's presidential nomination and only the fifth woman ever to join the race to White House.
Haley first won political office in 2004 when she was elected to South Carolina's House of Representatives. She was reelected in 2008.
In 2010, Haley was elected as Governor of South Carolina. She was reelected in 2014.
In 2017, Haley was appointed by the then-President Donald Trump as the US Ambassador to the United Nations. She resigned as the Governor to take up the role at the UN that she held till late 2018.
Nikki Haley's political journey, achievements
Nikki Haley was first elected to political office in 2004 when she was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Even though Indian immigrants had traditionally been Democrat-leaning, Haley ran on a traditional conservative platform to win the House seat. The issues she addressed in her campaign were tax cuts, immigration control, and abortion.
In her speeches, Haley identifies herself as a "proud daughter of Indian immigrants", whereas in public life her friends and foes describe her as a "conservative outsider", a "trailblazer", and a "fighter".
Haley was easily reelected to the South Carolina House in 2008.
In 2010, Haley ran for the post of Governor of South Carolina and the race turned out to be bitter as she faced racial slurs throughout the contest.
The Britannica noted, "It was a bitter campaign—with Haley being subjected to racial slurs and accusations of infidelity—but she defeated more experienced candidates in the primary and went on to win the general election."
Haley became the first woman and the first person of an ethnic minority to hold the governorship when she won the election. She was also the youngest Governor at the age of 39.
Haley had a highly successful tenure as a Governor that saw South Carolina's economy boom and unemployment fall sharply. For this, she was dubbed as the "Jobs Governor" during her tenure. Under her leadership, figures note, the state's unemployment rate hit a 15-year low, and when she left office, South Carolina was at full employment.
As Governor, Haley also dealt with the aftermath of a deadly mass-shooting in which nine Black persons were killed by a White Supremacist. She led a bipartisan effort to bring down a Confederate Flag from the Statehouse that was seen as a symbol of racism.
As the US envoy at the United Nations, Haley worked as foreign policy hawk and took on China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. Her tenure was marked by tough sanctions on North Korea and Russia and it was at the time that Trump quit the Iran nuclear deal.
Nikki Haley's political views, policies
Nikki Haley is a conservative, a free market champion, and a hawk on national security and foreign policy.
As the governor of South Carolina, she was known as a job creator, reformer and conservative champion.
Haley cut taxes, repealed regulations, and South Carolina was called the "the Beast of the Southeast" during her tenure. Under her leadership, figures note, the state's unemployment rate hit a 15-year low, and when she left office, South Carolina was at full employment.
At the end of her tenure, more South Carolinians were working than at any other time in history and the state was outperforming the national average, notes PTI, adding that her administration moved thousands of South Carolinians from welfare to work.
At the United Nations, Haley was a hawk on national security on foreign affairs.
At the UN, Haley negotiated the strongest set of sanctions against North Korea, convincing China and Russia to sign onto the agreement. Known as the "Iran whisperer", she was instrumental in making the case for repealing former US President Barack Obama's Iran nuclear deal.
At the UN, Haley was the Trump administration's most vocal critic of Russia. She also took on North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria over human rights abuses. For her work at the UN, Forbes had named her one of the world's 100 most powerful women.
Haley's term at the UN marked significant change in US-China relations. She confronted China's Uyghur atrocities and re-education camps, and warned of the existential threat China has on America and the world.
Haley is also a pro-Israeli leader and made the case for Israel's right for self-defence internationally. She also supported the US shifting its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Importance of Nikki Haley, the race ahead
Though Nikki Haley is the first person so far to challenge former President Donald Trump for Repulican nomination, she will not likely be the only one.
There are other hopefuls such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former Vice President Mike Pence. DeSantis is particularly seen as a potent rival to Trump whose standings among Republicans and voters in general has taken a beating after he led the Republican Party to a very poor show in the 2022 mid-term elections.
Haley's candidacy is important as she is first woman of colour to run for Republican Party's presidential nomination and only the fifth woman ever to join the race to White House. It's rare for women of colour to emerge as Republican leaders.
Trump has often resorted to racial slurs for opponents and enjoys supports from racial and fringe White Supremacists groups. In challenging Trump, Haley risks being a target of racial abuse.
"Haley’s race and gender are particularly noteworthy because Republican women of color are rare in elected office...The fact that she’s going up against Trump will sharpen the contrast, particularly if he uses the racist and sexist attacks he’s employed against past challengers. Haley’s candidacy will be a high-profile test of how a woman of color is received by Republican primary voters," notes polling and election news site FiveThirtyEight.
The winner of the Republican nomination will face the Democratic nominee in the 2024 presidential election. Though Biden has not formally launched a reelection bid, there is no apparent challenger of him in the Democratic Party and he has dropped ample hints that he would seek reelection.
(With PTI inputs)