S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, a rising political star who gained respect for her handling of one of 2015’s worst tragedies, will talk about solutions to the state’s and nation’s challenges in a nationally televised address Tuesday.
The Lexington Republican will deliver the GOP response to Democratic President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union.
The speech, by the nation’s youngest sitting governor, also will be watched for its impact on Haley’s political career and the 2016 presidential election.
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When will Haley speak? After the State of the Union, scheduled to start at 9 p.m. Obama’s previous addresses have lasted about an hour. So, best guess? About 10 p.m.
Where will she speak? From the S.C. Governor’s Mansion
How long will she speak? Unknown. The past six Republican responses have lasted 11 1/2 minutes, on average.
Making history: Haley is the first South Carolinian to give the State of the Union response since the political counterpoints were started in 1966. (S.C. Gov. Carroll Campbell was part of a nationally televised response to President Bill Clinton’s address to a joint session of Congress on health-care reform in 1993.)
How is this speech different? The Republicans are calling it an address, not so much a response to what Obama says.
What has she said about her address? “This will be very much just an address that allows me to talk to the country in a way that I think talks about things that I believe are important.”
Why did GOP congressional leaders pick her? “Not only has Governor 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,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Why do pundits think she was selected? Haley’s calming reaction to the Charleston church mass slaying and October’s massive flood as well as her successful call to remove the Confederate flag from State House grounds. The daughter of Indian immigrants also gives the Republican Party a chance to show off its diversity in gender and race, an issue raised after the 2012 presidential election. South Carolina also holds the South’s first presidential primary on Feb. 20.
What are her opponents saying? “Haley’s failed record gives her no credibility whatsoever. It was appalling she was selected. In fact, it exemplifies exactly why the last thing we need is a Republican to make the same mistakes at the national level,” Democratic National Committee chairwoman and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.
What can she accomplish? Bolstering her national profile during a presidential election year. Vice president? Haley will be on short lists. Cabinet post? Perhaps. (However, Haley has stressed she expects to finish her second and final term in 2019.)
What does she want to avoid? Becoming the subject of “Saturday Night Live” skits or late-night talk-show jokes. Think Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s awkward delivery or Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s water break.