Gov. Nikki Haley has been chosen to deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address next week, giving her a national platform heading into the critical 2016 election season.
The move comes as Haley’s profile has been elevated in recent months as a possible vice presidential pick, and follows the biggest summer of her political career, one that was flanked by the June 17 Emanuel AME Church shooting and the removal of the Confederate battle flag from S.C. Statehouse grounds.
Tuesday’s announcement was made jointly by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It is the first time a South Carolinian has been given the role. Haley is the third woman in a row put up by the Republicans to deliver the party’s main opposition message.
“In a year when the country is crying out for a positive vision and alternative to the status quo, Gov. Haley is the exact right choice to deliver the Republican Address to the Nation,” Ryan, R-Wis., said in a media release.
McConnell, R-Ky., called Haley a proven leader and committed reformer. “Gov. Haley knows the American Dream and wants to see every American share in it,” he added.
The president’s State of the Union speech is set for 9 p.m. Tuesday.
It may be as long as 90 minutes before Haley goes on the air depending on the length of Obama’s speech, the number of applause breaks and other chatter.
Haley’s time on camera will be much less. There will be no audience and she will probably talk for about 10 minutes from Columbia.
College of Charleston political scientist Kendra Stewart said the selection of Haley was an intentional choice by the GOP leadership toward appealing to women and minorities at a time when the party’s presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump, has alienated both with his brash campaign rhetoric.
“Right now they are doing very well with white males,” Stewart said of the GOP polling numbers. Part of the appeal of her selection is the “broader audience, and women,” she added.
Haley is the state’s first female governor and, as an Indian-American, its first minority chief executive.
Haley issued a media statement Tuesday indicating her address would be one of optimism.
“This is a time of great challenges for our country, but also of great opportunities,” Haley said. “I intend to speak about both.”
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551.