Clemson vs Florida State (copy)

Nikki Haley, shown here with Clemson University Jim Clements in 2017 at Memorial Stadium, will have more time to attend football games at her alma mater after leaving the United Nations. Gwinn Davis / Special to The Post and Courier

Nikki Haley is about to enter a very different world.

Since 2010, the Bamberg native has been an active international political figure as South Carolina's governor and the United States' ambassador to the United Nations, building a cult following for her leadership, accomplishments and relatable personality.

But starting next year, Haley will disappear from mandatory public view, no more open meetings to lead or news conferences, after she leaves the Trump administration.  

Life without a political title will allow her to sleep in and binge watch TV, as she suggested in a recent interview.

But the time off also gives her a chance to gear up for the big what's next, running for president in 2024.

Make no mistake about Haley: Every interview, every statement, every photo op, every decision from now on will be calculated on running for the White House.

Some of that work has already begun in the news we learned over the past week. 

She will live in New York for at least two years while her son finishes high school, giving her fast access to the world's media capital (and to Fox News).

She says she wants to work for a think tank, a suggestion bolstered by the rather-intellectual media outlets that scored recent interviews — the conservative Weekly Standard and the more liberal The Atlantic.

And she will write her second book, the patented move of the politically ambitious and a potential best-seller since it's coming from a Trump insider.

Yes, Haley will demur every time she is asked about running for president ("Truly no one believes me: I am not even thinking about it," she told The Atlantic).

So let's go back a decade.

Vowing to fight after losing a coveted Statehouse committee spot in late 2008, then-state Rep. Haley told The State newspaper in Columbia she was not seeking statewide office.

Six months later, she announced she was running for governor, a decision that would catapult her career.

It's always about the next step with Haley — and she will have help getting there.

The cult of Nikki will only grow in the her two years in New York.

Look at the narrative being built. 

She did well at the U.N. by being tough against foes, such as those who oppose Israel, while being humane, like when she visited Syrian refugee camps.

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She is escaping the Trump administration cleanly — unlike almost all others who have departed either on their own amid controversy or with the president's reality TV punch line, "You're fired."

She is a dutiful critic to Trump — someone who can veer away from him, such as on whether the Russians meddled in the 2016 election, while remaining as a loyalist, like lashing out at an anonymous administration official who wrote a column slamming the president. (Consider, too, that the two media outlets interviewing Haley last week are not super friendly to Trump.)

The narrative is already working.

News reports peg Haley as a possible replacement on the 2020 ticket for Vice President Mike Pence, which would get her a leg up in 2024.

While the VP chatter continues, look for her to make some money from the private sector after nearly a decade of government paychecks. Taking a break from sustained public life helps Haley keep her cult status intact as her legacy in Columbia and New York grows while giving her time to recharge ahead of her own presidential bid.

It's dizzying to think about how her life has changed in rather short time. 

Fifteen years ago this month, Haley was not in office and working in her parents' Lexington clothing store. An interview for her meant commenting on how shoppers still used layaway. ("The few people who do layaway do it because they don't want to use a credit card with interest," she told The State.)

Now folks want to know what she plans to binge watch.

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Columbia Bureau Chief

Shain runs The Post and Courier's team based in South Carolina's capital city. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.