S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley ruled out being Donald Trump’s running mate Wednesday as the New York billionaire’s path to the GOP presidential nomination cleared.
In a statement, Haley said: "I have great respect for the will of the people, and as I have always said, I will support the Republican nominee for president.”
“To the members of the press who are asking, while I am flattered to be mentioned and proud of what that says about the great things going on in South Carolina, my plate is full and I am not interested in serving as vice president.”
Meanwhile, S.C. Republican Party leaders called Wednesday for their party to unify behind Trump after his last two major opponents quit the race. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas left the race on Tuesday, following his landslide loss in the Indiana GOP primary, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich dropped out Wednesday.
“We have to respect the fact that Donald Trump has won dozens of states,” said S.C. GOP chairman Matt Moore. “Republican voters clearly want an outsider who will shake things up.”
Moore said Trump, who won South Carolina’s GOP primary in February, will have access to the state party’s data and field operations immediately. “Our job, at the end of the day, is to help candidates win elections.”
In a campaign previously abuzz with the possibility of Trump facing a contested convention, Cruz’s exit Tuesday came as a surprise to some S.C. Republicans, said Glenn McCall, a Republican National Committee member from Rock Hill.
“I thought Sen. Cruz was going to go the distance,” said McCall, who, as a party official, had remained neutral in the race. “But we have a presumptive nominee now, and we're all going to unify.”
Speculation about Haley’s prospects as a potential vice-presidential candidate intensified last year after she led an effort to remove the Confederate flag from the S.C. State House grounds. Calls for the flag’s removal came in response to a racially motivated mass slaying at a Charleston church.
The daughter of Indian immigrants and South Carolina’s first female and minority governor, Haley’s national profile has grown over her two terms. However, Haley would have been an unlikely choice for Trump, having has used her higher profile to criticize the bombastic New Yorker.
Delivering the GOP response to President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address this year, Haley warned the nation to ignore the “siren call of the angriest voices” — a slap at Trump — and criticized his immigration proposals.
Later, Haley endorsed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the S.C. GOP primary. When Rubio dropped out of the race, Haley said she would support Cruz.