Will the right-wing backlash help or hurt Nikki Haley?

Since it was announced earlier this month that Nikki Haley would deliver the official Republican response to the State of the Union, excitable pundits have hyped the speech as a dramatic, made-for-TV “audition” — a chance for South Carolina’s young, telegenic governor to prove her talents, and compete for a coveted spot on the GOP’s presidential ticket.

But while Haley’s performance Tuesday night may have indeed solidified her A-list status in the Republican establishment, the primetime moment was actually the culmination of years of careful — and often quiet — backstage maneuvering by the governor’s team as they worked to position her as a top-tier contender for the vice-presidential nomination.

“I think she’ll be on everybody’s [2016] short list,” one Haley aide confidently predicted to BuzzFeed News in the spring of 2014. Similarly, Haley’s top adviser, Tim Pearson, said at the same time that when it came to her prospects in a national campaign, “She has certainly been vetted and come out looking good on the other side.”