America’s youngest governor, Nikki Haley, 43, will belt out what will certainly be a strident Republican response in an election year to Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address 12 January 9 pm EST. Nikki Haley is South Carolina governor, she took office in 2010 and won a resounding re-election in 2014.
The state of the union rebuttal - a job usually handed to an up and coming politician who has the confidence of party elders, is a rotten assignment when you’re up against a rock star black American president whose rousing speeches on race and guns are the stuff of political legend.
Not screwing up is a good starting block. Rewinding to some of the memorable rebuttals of the Obama years shows just what a punishing task this one will be.
In his last high profile speech before leaving an empty chair, Obama will give voice to themes that Democrats can embrace in their battle to regain control of Congress. In Haley, the Republicans believe they have found a counterweight to their richest tin drum - Trump.
"If you want to hear a woman who is a visionary, who has a path for the future, it is Nikki Haley,” says Ryan. A deafening buzz has begun that Haley will join a potential Republican administration in 2017.
The superlatives flow freely as the Republicans desperately search for a name who can mirror the diversity they are desperately seeking to headline in a most volatile US election campaign driven by right wing fear mongering, especially by their very own Donald.
Haley’s credentials include staunch and consistent criticism of Obama’s policies - a distaste that unites the Republican controlled Congress and resonates well with the grandees.
Nikki Haley was born Nimrata Randhawa to Indian immigrants in Bamberg, South Carolina. A New York Times story talks about the time when her parents entered Nikki and sister Simran in the Little Miss Bamberg pageant, the judges of the contest - which crowned one black queen and one white queen, disqualified the Randhawa sisters but not before Nikki sang 'This Land Is Your Land.'
Haley's parents ran a clothing store in Columbia, where Nikki, raised as a Sikh, began working at age 13. Haley met her husband Micheal at Clemson University. After marrying in both Sikh and Methodist ceremonies. Haley was baptized into the Methodist Church and now identifies as Christian.
Elected to the state Legislature in 2004, Haley is not just the first top female official of South Carolina but also its first minority governor.
Haley lends credibility to the Republicans’ tortured attempt to prove that they retain appeal among women, minorities, and younger voters — a vote bank that powered Obama to the presidency twice, even more resounding in his second term. Indian American voters played a stellar role in propelling Obama's second term.
After a deadly shooting at a black church in Charleston last summer, Haley won sweeping applause by calling for removal of the Confederate flag from state capitol grounds — a rare moment when Obama and Haley seemed to share a common vision.
Despite stumbling in her early years as governor of South Carolina, Haley won a convincing reelection in 2014 and has stood with hardline conservatives on most issues except on the Confederate flag where she won brownie points anyway.
South Carolina is one of the first Southern states to hold a primary on 27 February.
For the Grand Old Party (GOP) - the local idiom for the Republicans, Haley represents a certain newness that does not contain Trump’s swagger and abrasion.
For Tuesday night, the non-Donald and un-Obama is good enough.
First Published On : Jan 12, 2016 20:21 IST