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Nikki Haley Endorses Mitt Romney

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley becomes the latest Tea Party darling to back Mitt Romney.

Politico (“Nikki Haley to endorse Romney“):

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, one of the most sought-after remaining Republican endorsements, will come out for Mitt Romney Friday morning, POLITICO has learned.

Haley will offer her formal endorsement on Fox and Friends, giving Romney an important boost ahead of South Carolina’s primary next month.

Romney is heading to South Carolina this weekend, where he’s likely to be joined by Haley at town hall meetings on the coast.

Haley, a tea party favorite who upended South Carolina’s GOP establishment by winning last year, has been courted by all of the GOP presidential contenders. As a state representative, she backed Romney in 2008.

The last line is an important reminder of something I’ve noted in this space several time: Mitt Romney was the choice of much of the conservative Establishment last go-round, at least once Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson imploded. Mike Huckabee was, despite his social conservative bonafides, thought to be too wacky on other issues. And Romney was widely favored over John McCain, the eventual nominee, as being more reliably conservative.

NYT (“Nikki Haley Endorses Mitt Romney“):

Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor elected with the help of the Tea Party movement and whose support is coveted, endorsed Mitt Romney Friday morning, making her announcement on “Fox & Friends.”

“Today is the day that I’m throwing all of my support behind Mitt Romney for president,” Ms. Haley said, speaking from South Carolina. “What I wanted was someone who knew what it was like to turn broken companies around.”

Ms. Haley is expected to appear with Mr. Romney at a rally at a firehouse in Greenville, S.C., Friday afternoon, and the two are also scheduled to appear on Greta Van Susteren’s “On the Record” Friday evening. South Carolina follows Iowa and New Hampshire in presidential nominating contests.

“Now more than ever, we need someone who has the leadership to deal with a broken Washington,” Ms. Haley added.

[...]

Mr. Romney’s campaign is hoping that Ms. Haley’s nod, like the endorsement by Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, will send a broader message of acceptance by conservative Republicans, whose support he has struggled to win.

“It is an honor to have the endorsement of Governor Haley,” Mr. Romney said in an e-mail statement released by his campaign. “As a successful businesswoman who entered public service so government could better serve the people, Governor Haley’s career-long efforts to reform government, make government more accountable to the taxpayers, and fight wasteful spending should be examples for leaders across the country. These conservative principles of smaller government are what I am fighting for in my campaign and will be the basis for restoring economic prosperity and fiscal health.”

The endorsement from Ms. Haley has the potential to help Mr. Romney in a critical, conservative state where he is trailing Newt Gingrich in most polls. Mr. Romney came in fourth in the state in 2008, getting only 15 percent of the vote.

Even with Ms. Haley’s nod, Mr. Romney may have a tough time in the state, where Republican primary voters tend to be conservative and religious. Mr. Romney, who is a Mormon, could still struggle for support in the state.

But the benefit to Mr. Romney from Ms. Haley’s endorsement may go beyond the borders of South Carolina.

By edging out Mr. Gingrich for the nod, Mr. Romney may be able to shift the narrative of a campaign that is playing catch-up in the last weeks before voting begins. That could help him regain ground he has lost in the polls in places like Iowa and New Hampshire.

It also gives Mr. Romney another stamp of approval from an outside-Washington, Tea Party conservative who can testify — and will, all weekend long — that Mr. Romney’s conservative credentials are better than Mr. Gingrich’s.

Barring some late surge by Jon Huntsman or Rick Santorum–both of which strike me as wildly unlikely–we’re down to a two man race between Romney and Newt Gingrich. And hardly any elected Republican seems to cherish the notion of Gingrich as the party’s nominee.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    A few points are worth mentioning.

    First, can you fathom the reaction among the left-wing chattering classes if Haley were to be named the Veep candidate? A female racial minority who just so happens to be a conservative southern governor?! Yikes. Psychiatrists across the country will need to be on call 24/7.

    Second, Haley did have the option of not specifically endorsing anyone. The fact she endorsed Romney at least suggests the internal (not for public consumption) polling data has Romney out in front, perhaps by a material margin. Then again, Republicans are notoriously challenged when it comes to separating media polling from real polling.

    Third, regardless whether Gingrich or Romney is leading the contest it’s beyond obvious there’s a fundamental dichotomy between the adult politicos who actually play the game and the naive rubes populating the GOP’s primary selectorate, who inexplicably have glommed onto Gingrich. The former realize that Gingrich wholly is unelectable and that his candidacy would be a disaster; the latter still are whistling past the political graveyard.

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  2. Herb says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II:

    “A female racial minority who just so happens to be a conservative southern governor?!”

    Not so sure that the “the left-wing chattering classes” are as impressed with tokenism as you think they are….

    Nor do I think anyone in the Republican party is going to ask another freshman governor to be on the VP ticket just because she’s a woman and people like her. Nikki Haley will finish her first term before she entertains any notions of being on the GOP ticket.

    Also….you’re right about her not having to endorse anyone. Not so sure it suggests what you think it suggests, though. It actually kind of suggests Romney could use the help. As opposed to being secretly ahead in the “real” polls, it might show that Romney is actually losing ground and could use the buck.

    I will agree though that a Gingrich candidacy would be a total disaster.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And Romney was widely favored over John McCain, the eventual nominee, as being more reliably conservative.

    ?????????

    I mean really James, how many attempts did it take you to type that?

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I personally favored McCain over Romney very early in the contest. But everyone from National Review to Red State was rallying behind Romney as the “most conservative” candidate.

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