Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has announced Tuesday she is running for president, becoming the first Republican to take on former President Donald Trump, her onetime boss.
Haley, 51, was the ambassador to the U.N. for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. From 2011-17, she served as governor of South Carolina.
“The Washington establishment has failed us over and over and over again,” Haley said in an online video announcing her candidacy. “It’s time for a new generation of leadership to rediscover fiscal responsibility, secure our border and strengthen our country, our pride and our purpose.”
Haley will announce her candidacy in person Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina.
If elected, she would become the nation’s first female president. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she also would become the first woman and first person of color to receive the Republican nomination.
Haley began her video discussing how she “was different” growing up in South Carolina.
“But my mom would always say your job is not to focus on the differences, but the similarities,” Haley said. “And my parents reminded me and my siblings every day how blessed we were to live in America.”
She touted her accomplishments as governor, saying, “People came by the thousands for fresh starts. Moms and dads held their heads up high. Children learned that it was always a great day in South Carolina.”
But she also evoked the 2015 mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, in which a white gunman killed nine Black worshippers during a Bible study.
“When evil did come, we turned away from fear, toward God and the values that still make our country the freest and greatest in the world,” she said.
“We must turn in that direction again,” Haley continued. “Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections. That has to change.”
She called President Joe Biden’s record “abysmal.”
“Some people look at America and see vulnerability,” she said. “The socialist left sees an opportunity to rewrite history. China and Russia are on the march. They all think we can be bullied, kicked around. You should know this about me: I don’t put up with bullies. And when you kick back, it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels.”
Haley is expected to face an uphill battle to win the GOP nomination. A Monmouth University poll last week found that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has not announced whether he will run, and Trump, who entered the race in November, are the clear front-runners. When Republican voters were asked whom they would like to see as the Republican nominee, only 1% named Haley, tying her for fourth.
In a post on his Truth Social platform on Feb. 1, Trump said Haley “has to follow her heart, not her honor. She should definitely run!”
Trump’s allies, however, took a different approach, slamming Haley as “just another career politician.”
“She started out as a Never Trumper before resigning to serve in the Trump admin.,” said Taylor Budowich, a former Trump spokesman who now heads up the Make America Great Again Inc. super PAC. “She then resigned early to go rake in money on corporate boards. Now, she’s telling us she represents a ‘new generation.’ Sure just looks like more of the same, a career politician whose only fulfilled commitment is to herself.”
South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace told CNN on Tuesday that she’s “excited” to see the woman she called her friend and mentor enter the race, praising the former governor for backing her over a Trump-endorsed candidate in last year’s midterms.
Mace, a Trump critic, told the outlet that she hoped Haley would run “no matter what,” regardless of whether or not the former preseident joined the race, but expressed concerns that a crowded primary could benefit him.
“I have concerns if there are too many people on the ballot by the time it gets to South Carolina, that … lessens the chances of anyone else coming out in this thing,” Mace said, adding: “I’d like to see it small.”
The Democratic National Committee slammed Haley in a statement, saying that she “embraced the most extreme elements of the MAGA agenda and couldn’t even identify a single policy difference between herself and Trump.”
“Her governorship in South Carolina included signing an extreme abortion ban into law with no exceptions for rape or incest, endorsing a plan to end Medicare as we know it, pushing for tax cuts that benefit the ultra wealthy and corporations, and refusing to expand Medicaid to provide affordable health care access for hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians,” said DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, a South Carolina native who previously ran for U.S. Senate in the state. “Haley’s entrance officially kicks off a messy 2024 primary race for the MAGA base that has long been brewing. Everyone get your popcorn.”