Some have begun to think of it as a “curse.” Official party responses to the State of the Union address tend to go so poorly, that those who deliver them occasionally see their careers spiral downward soon after.
But South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defied the odds and received bipartisan plaudits after her remarks on Tuesday night, raising the volume on the chatter about the governor as a possible vice presidential nominee for Republicans later this year. Jeb Bush gushed at how “proud” he was to see his “friend” deliver a “clear vision for a brighter future.” Marco Rubio, campaigning in Haley’s home state yesterday, talked about what a “great job” she did.
But Haley’s first full day in the national spotlight was not without its problems.
First, the fact that the governor obliquely criticized her party’s presidential frontrunner in her speech made Haley the center of a renewed intra-party fight over its direction. Far-right Republicans on Capitol Hill and in conservative media made clear how displeased they were with the South Carolinian. Rush Limbaugh, in particular, went after Haley with unkind words.
Second, the governor yesterday ended up slamming some of the same Republicans who’d expressed support for her hours earlier.
Facing backlash for her criticism of Donald Trump the night before, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) on Wednesday said she has differences of opinion with several other Republican presidential candidates. […]“You know, I have disagreements with other presidential candidates,” she said. “You know, Jeb Bush passed Common Core, and Marco Rubio believes in amnesty, which I don’t.”
Last night, Haley walked it all back on Fox News, saying Bush “supported Common Core,” but “certainly didn’t pass it,” adding that Rubio “is not for amnesty, but I was against his Gang of Eight bill.”
Of course, the damage was already done. Coming soon to South Carolina televisions: an ad featuring Nikki Haley saying, “Marco Rubio believes in amnesty, which I don’t.”
And finally, the governor also did an interview yesterday in which she said, “When you’ve got immigrants who are coming here legally, we’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion. Let’s not start that now.”
That’s a nice sentiment, but it’s factually incorrect. As Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum noted, “After World War I a series of immigration restrictions were passed that explicitly favored northern European whites; limited immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans; and banned Asian immigrants almost entirely.”
Taken together, politicians have had smoother introductions to the national stage. Over the course of about 12 hours, Nikki Haley managed to divide her own party, blast some of her allies, clumsily walk back the criticisms, and misstate the details of immigration policy she claims to understand.
As auditions for the Republican Party’s national ticket go, yesterday could have been better. I suspect there were some candidates and party officials watching closely yesterday, checking to see how Haley fared facing pressure and under the spotlight.
The governor probably didn’t do herself any favors.