Republicans picked South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union Address next week because the charismatic conservative, only months after deftly managing the removal of the Confederate flag from state Capitol grounds, is one of party’s most likeable and talented politicians.
As many of those same Republicans see it, those are the same reasons Haley should sit atop anyone’s short list of vice presidential prospects—regardless of who wins the Republican nomination. Already, weeks before the Iowa caucuses, speculation has intensified that Haley’s rebuttal next week is a showcase for a politician destined to reach a bigger national stage this summer.
“She not only needs to be on the short list, she needs to be high on it,” said Alex Castellanos, a veteran GOP strategist. “She is an optimistic, sunshine conservative in the Reagan tradition.”
The 43-year-old Haley, who made history as South Carolina’s first female and first minority governor, offers a potent blend of experience, background, and rhetorical dexterity, according to Republican strategists. Especially enticing, they add, is the possibility of adding a woman to the ticket in a year in which Democrats are likely to pick the first-ever female nominee for president.