SPARTANBURG — Gov. Nikki Haley’s endorsement of presidential hopeful Marco Rubio has breathed new life into the GOP wing hoping to attract new, young and minority voters, and has some wondering about their possible future together.
Both Rubio and Haley have long been viewed as rising stars in the Republican Party, and Haley has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick for the party’s ultimate nominee.
After weeks of speculation, Haley took a risk and endorsed Rubio at a campaign rally Wednesday in Chapin. And as children of immigrants who achieved the American dream, both 44-year-olds are often referred to by voters and pundits as the party’s future.
Haley downplayed that notion Thursday, saying that it was a compliment but that it wasn’t just her and Rubio who believe this is “not the country our parents wanted for us.”
“I hope we’re the new face of the conservative movement that’s going to be key to say ‘OK, enough is enough,’ ” Haley said. “We deserve better. We can do better.”
Haley’s endorsement was a big score for the Florida senator, whose campaign suffered a blow during the New Hampshire primary. He touted his similarities with Haley on Thursday, and talked about how they were part of the conservative movement swept into office in 2010.
“I’m just so proud of her endorsement because as much as anything else, it is indeed what she has done here a signal and a very clear message of what Republicanism and conservatism needs to be about in the 21st century,” Rubio said.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said he’s already heard many people speculate about a Rubio-Haley ticket, “and the key word is speculate.”
“Rubio is a long, long way from winning the nomination, and he’ll have a long list of potentially strong running mates,” said Sabato, adding, however, that the pairing of the two is striking. “It would blow apart most people’s image of the GOP as a home for aging white people — and I say that as an aging white person.”
Rubio, who recent polls show is gaining on front-runner Donald Trump in South Carolina, said it was presumptuous to entertain the idea of picking Haley to run with him as vice president.
But he did say that any nominee would be “out of their minds” to not consider Haley for vice president.
“She’s incredibly talented,” Rubio said. “She’s everything the Republican Party should be in the 21st century. She’s a phenomenal leader.”
Haley said her plate is full.
“I have a senior getting ready to go to college and a son in middle school,” Haley said. “And I love the people of South Carolina.”
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who endorsed Rubio earlier this month, said he is “all for” Haley being picked for vice president. Scott said Haley is articulate and a strong leader, who went “through the fire” during a tragic 2015 in the Palmetto State.
“She would be a fantastic choice and one that I think the country would be quite responsive to,” said Scott, who has Haley to thank for being appointed to the Senate upon Jim DeMint’s retirement.
However, not all consider a Rubio-Haley ticket a likely move.
Former Francis Marion University political scientist Neal Thigpen said a Rubio-Haley ticket would be “absolutely unbalanced” and bring little to the GOP for a national race in November. In addition to their identical ages, the fact they both come from the South is a strike against the GOP.
“You don’t pick someone as a running mate from a state that the Republicans are going to carry away in a handbasket,” he said.
But College of Charleston Professor Gibbs Knotts said the regionally unbalanced approach is not unprecedented. It worked in 1992 for Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee.
Of course, they were Democrats.
Schuyler Kropf and Robert Behre contributed to this report.