COLUMBIA -- South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley is talking international politics as she travels across the country to raise money.
A Chicago-based group named Indian American Friends of Nikki held a fundraiser earlier this month in Chicago. An anonymous account of the event published by the India Post website praised Haley, and said she told the audience that she favors a nuclear deal between India and the U.S. and making India a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
Both are touchy international issues. President Barack Obama is set to visit India in November, partly to ease Indians' fears that their country is slipping behind rivals China and Pakistan in U.S. foreign policy priorities.
Haley said Wednesday she was answering audience questions, but she wouldn't say what the questions were or further explain her stance.
"They asked me a question and I gave them an answer," she said at a news conference. "If you had been there, you would have understood the question. ... Now I'm in South Carolina and I answer South Carolina questions."
She said she only wanted to talk about her endorsement by the local branch of the National Federation of Independent Business.
However, late Wednesday, her campaign responded: "All Nikki said was that India should be a permanent part of the UN Security Council and that the U.S. and India are natural allies and we should work to strengthen that friendship."
Organizers of the Chicago fundraiser declined to answer any questions about the fundraiser or the group. Two were reached by phone and pledged to call back or respond by e-mail, but neither did. The group's chairman did not respond to an e-mail. According to the India Post, more than 200 people attended.
A political scientist says it fuels speculation about Haley's long-term political ambitions.
Other events Haley's had this month include the Republican Indian Committee's breakfast in Washington and the Indian American Friendship Council's luncheon in Dallas.
Statewide candidates fundraising outside the state is nothing new, and it's not unusual for a national political action committee to promote candidates it likes, but an out-of-state group forming for a specific candidate raises questions, Winthrop University professor and poll director Scott Huffmon said.
"What makes it odd is not an Indian-American group supporting an Indian-American, but that it's halfway across the country and specifically for Nikki Haley. That's what raises eyebrows," he said.
Before Gov. Mark Sanford notoriously returned from Argentina last year to confess an affair, there was similar speculation about whether his stances could lead to a presidential run or vice presidential pick.
Haley's campaign says her out-of-state fundraising just shows she's well-liked across the nation.
Haley's Democratic opponent, Vincent Sheheen, has had fundraisers in Washington and Charlotte.
"The clear difference between our fundraisers and hers is that ours were put on by those with a vested interest in South Carolina as well as South Carolinians participating," said his spokesman, Trav Robertson.