S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, coming off a year where she gained national attention for her handling of the Charleston church slayings, will deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 12.
Haley is calling her nationally televised speech from Columbia an “address” rather than a “response,” as the political counterpoints have been called since they began in 1966. Haley is the first South Carolinian to deliver the State of the Union response.
“This is a time of great challenges for our country but also of great opportunities,” she said in a statement. “I intend to speak about both.”
The Lexington Republican, considered a possible vice presidential pick, is heading into the middle of her second term as governor of a state that holds the South’s first presidential primary.
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The opposition party’s State of the Union response has played into presidential politics in recent years.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gave the address a year before he was picked as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., delivered the 2013 response to Obama and is running for the White House this year.
Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, has been called a rising star in the GOP since she became South Carolina’s first woman and first minority governor in 2011. She gave a prime-time speech during the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Haley’s political stature has grown since this summer, when she successfully called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds after a state senator and eight other parishioners were gunned down at Emanuel AME Church on June 17. An avowed racist, who had posed with a rebel flag online, was charged in those killings, which shocked the nation.
In his last State of the Union, Obama plans to deliver what the White House has called a non-traditional address that will focus on the nation’s challenges, rather than push new initiatives.
During her tenure as the nation’s youngest governor, Haley has criticized Washington politicians and the Democratic-controlled White House for what she has called burdensome regulations and legal overreach.
Most recently, she has fought against settling Syrian refugees in South Carolina and opposed possible plans to move Guantanamo Bay detainees to a Navy brig outside Charleston, citing security concerns.
Haley also has refused to expand Medicaid under the federal health-care insurance law that was the signature piece of legislation passed under Obama.
Haley was chosen to give the GOP response by Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“Not only has Gov. Haley fought to bring opportunity and prosperity to the people of her state, but she’s also demonstrated how bringing people together can bring real results,” McConnell said in a statement. “Gov. Haley knows the American dream and wants to see every American share in it.”
The address likely will curtail any plans for Haley to travel to Arizona for the national college football championship game Monday night between Clemson University, her alma mater, and the University of Alabama.
Haley, a Clemson accounting graduate who often attends games at Memorial Stadium, traveled to Florida last week to watch the Tigers’ semifinal win over the University of Oklahoma.
Previous GOP State of the Union responses
2009: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (1)
2010: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell
2011: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin
2012: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels
2013: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida
2014: U.S. Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington
2015: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa
(1) Jindal’s response came after President Barack Obama’s first speech to a joint session of Congress