CHARLESTON - State Rep. and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Haley appeared before some of the nation's most active Republican women in Charleston on Thursday and proved to be a hit.

Haley's 15-minute stump speech intertwined her personal story with national issues, such as President Barack Obama's health care reform, unpopular government spending and Arizona's controversial immigration law.

"The issues that we're seeing around the country are the same issues we're seeing in South Carolina," Haley said. "People want government to remember who it is that we work for. They want government to know the value of a dollar, and they want jobs and the economy to come first."

She spoke before more than 100 members of the National Federation of Republican Women, which is holding its fall meeting in Charleston. About half in attendance are from South Carolina, the rest from others states.

Haley faces Democrat Vincent Sheheen and Green Party and United Citizens Party candidate Morgan Reeves on Nov. 2.

Her historic bid to become the state's first female and first nonwhite governor already has made her somewhat of a national figure -- she appeared on Newsweek's cover in July.

"I had no name ID. I was the least funded. And I went out and I talked to the people," Haley said of her primary win. "The entire country looked at South Carolina and said, 'What happened?' ... This happened because the people found their voice. The people turned around and said we're not going to elect who we expect to win, we're going to elect who should win. The people said, 'We're taking our government back.' "

Zan Bunn of Cary, N.C., said she's followed Haley's rise from fourth place to favorite in the wide-open governor's race.

"I also know that there were some very scurrilous rumors spread about her, and I was offended by that," Bunn said, referring to claims by two Republican figures that they had affairs with Haley --claims Haley denied and that were unproven.

"As a woman, it was very offensive to hear certain things spread in a campaign for political purposes," Bunn said, "so I was very excited to see her triumph on election day."

Jayne Neal of Wooster, Ohio, said she was interested to learn the story of Haley's family and how they worked their way up after immigrating here from India.

"In society today, we don't have to do that because we have free health care, free education, free transportation and food stamps," Neal said.

Susan Witcher of Tennessee said she also was impressed by Haley. "She reminded me a lot of (U.S. Rep.) Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) She's just vivacious and gets down to the issues important to us."

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or at rbehre@postandcourier.com.