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SC Gov. Haley to keep low profile at this year’s GOP convention

VIDEO: Donald Trump and Nikki Haley are "friends"

Donald Trump responds to criticism by S.C. Governor Nikki Haley who said he was an "angry voice" prior to the GOP debate in North Charleston Thursday, January 14, 2016.
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Donald Trump responds to criticism by S.C. Governor Nikki Haley who said he was an "angry voice" prior to the GOP debate in North Charleston Thursday, January 14, 2016.

Four years ago, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley took the national stage at the Republican National Convention in Tampa as speculation swirled about the rising political star’s future.

This week, the term-limited, lame-duck governor – who missed the mark this presidential primary season, backing two of Donald Trump’s opponents – will keep a lower profile as Republicans gather in Cleveland for their 2016 convention.

For instance, Haley’s name was not on a list released Thursday of dozens of speakers slated for the convention stage.

But that’s not because she was not asked to speak, Haley’s office says.

Republican National Committee Chairman “Reince Preibus asked if Gov. Haley would speak at the convention a couple weeks ago,” said Rob Godfrey, Haley’s deputy chief of staff.

“Gov. Haley was grateful for the invitation and looks forward to attending the convention. But, as we have said before, she has no plans to speak, so she declined the opportunity.”

Gov. Haley was grateful for the invitation and looks forward to attending the convention. But, as we have said before, she has no plans to speak, so she declined the opportunity.

– Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey on the governor being asked to speak at this week’s convention

Instead, the daughter of Indian immigrants – who made history with her 2010 election as South Carolina’s first minority and female governor and enjoyed a meteoric rise in the party – will spend time with the state’s convention delegation, network and attend Republican Governors Association events, her spokesman said.

Rise of a GOP star

Haley’s schedule is a change of pace from four years ago.

Convention speaking roles are a chance to showcase the parties’ up-and-coming stars and test whether they are ready for prime time. Because of the potential to shine, the spots are coveted.

For example, Barack Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention speech was the start of his ascent to the White House.

Haley already was garnering national attention by the time she was highlighted as a GOP rising star on the 2012 convention stage.

A little-known state representative, Haley rode a tea party wave into the governor’s office in 2010 – winning high-profile endorsements from 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s presidential nominee two years later.

The youngest state governor, Haley has shown she has appeal that branches beyond political audiences. A 2012 Vogue feature and New York meeting with rocker Joan Jett helped feed that image.

Since then, Haley has maintained a national profile in part due to her participation in Republican Governors Association events and her campaigning for GOP candidates in other states, including Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, whom Trump has tapped as his vice-presidential running mate.

Last summer, Haley and the state were thrust into the national spotlight again, after nine African-Americans were shot and killed during a Bible study in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. Within a week of the shooting – and with the nation watching and weighing in on social media – Haley pushed to remove the Confederate flag, pictured in photographs online with the alleged shooter, from the State House grounds.

Clashing with Trump

In January, Haley delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address and used the nationally televised speech, in part, to rebuke Trump, criticizing his immigration proposals and warning the nation to ignore the “siren call of the angriest voices.”

Haley since has said she would back the GOP’s presidential nominee. But Trump was not her first or second choice.

Haley endorsed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida before South Carolina’s February GOP primary. When Rubio dropped out, Haley threw her support to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

In May, Haley was rumored to be on Trump’s short list for vice president. But after Cruz ended his presidential run, clearing the path to the nomination for the blustery New York billionaire, Haley ruled out being Trump’s running mate, saying her plate was full.

Trump and Haley also have clashed on Twitter, where Trump said South Carolinians were embarrassed by the governor. Haley responded dismissively, “Bless your heart.”

As a respected party leader, Haley is someone whose absence on the convention stage will not go unnoticed, said Katon Dawson, a former S.C. GOP chairman and a 2016 convention delegate.

“She does have something to say and she’s of value,” said Dawson, adding, “nobody thought the South would elect someone like Nikki Haley, and she’s a full-throated conservative.”

But Haley likely will not lose any sleep over not sharing the stage with Trump, said Lexington political consultant Walter Whetsell.

Haley already has had the national spotlight this year, responding to Obama’s speech, and “she did it magnificently, and she’s gotten fairly universal praise for it.”

‘I don’t think we’ve heard the last of her’

Though Haley’s gubernatorial career is coming to an end, her political career could go on, said Karen Kedrowski, a Winthrop University political scientist.

Haley could land a job in a Trump administration if the Republican is elected or go to work in the nonprofit or political sector, re-emerging as a national figure in 2020, Kedrowski said.

“She’s young, smart, beautiful, experienced and someone that the Republican Party really does want to showcase. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of her at all.”

(Haley is) young, smart, beautiful, experienced and someone that the Republican Party really does want to showcase. I don't think we've heard the last of her at all.

– Winthrop University political scientist Karen Kedrowski

Haley and the Republican convention

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has gone from being the darling of the 2012 Republican National Convention to having no public role in this week’s GOP convention. A look back at Haley’s 2012 convention speech in Tampa:

▪  How she got there: After her historic election as South Carolina’s first minority and female governor, Haley quickly became a national GOP favorite – acclaimed as an example of the party’s diversity.

▪  Political alliances: In South Carolina’s 2012 GOP presidential primary, Haley endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who had backed Haley when she was a little-known state representative running for governor in 2010.

▪  What she said: In her 2012 convention speech, Haley discussed being the daughter of Indian immigrants, touted South Carolina’s economy, endorsed efforts to pass voter ID and immigration laws, and praised the Romneys.

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