For the Republican Party, Haley seems like an antidote to Donald Trump. The governor helps inoculate the party against criticism aimed at the Republican presidential frontrunner. Trump’s calls for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and rebuke of unauthorized immigrants have risked alienating voters. Haley, on the other hand, invokes her background as the daughter of immigrants to stress tolerance. She has criticized her party for taking a tone that “often appears cold and unwelcoming to minorities,” warning: “That’s shameful and that has to change.”
At the same time, Haley advocates a policy agenda likely to tap into the same vein of conservative support that several presidential contenders—including Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio—have successfully mined. The governor signed off on some of the strictest immigration laws in the country, took a stand against Syrian refugees, resisted calls for gun control in the wake of the Charleston church shooting, and has voiced criticism of Black Lives Matter. Haley has the potential to elevate an agenda that mirrors some of the most conservative stances of the Republican 2016 field, and without the liabilities of a candidate like Trump.
Haley is a skilled politician, not an idealistic reformer. The governor avoided a fight over the Confederate flag until, in the wake of the Charleston shooting, that was no longer politically tenable.