Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday she plans to address the challenges in South Carolina and the nation that she thinks are the most important in her Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address next week.
Haley declined to reveal details of what she plans to say, except to repeat that she is giving an “address” to the nation rather a “response” to Obama.
“I certainly am not one to compete against the president or try to imply that I could be,” Haley told reporters. “I just wanted to take this as an opportunity to express the challenges that I think we have seen in our state but also in our country and the solutions ... and the opportunities that can be there.
“This will be very much just an address that allows me to talk to the country in a way that I think talks about things that I believe are important.”
Haley, the first South Carolinian to deliver the State of the Union response since the political counterpoints were started in 1966, said she will write the address with the help of her staff. She said the Republican leaders in Congress, who chose her for the speech, will have no input in the address, which will air Tuesday after the president’s address.
“They have given us the leeway to do this,” she said. “I have my process as we do speeches. I know what I think I know, what I feel.”
Haley’s selection to deliver the response has led to speculation about her political future, including how she could help the GOP in a presidential election year.
The nationally televised speech bolstered chatter the Lexington Republican is a possible vice presidential pick. Haley is coming off a year where she gained national attention for her handling of the Charleston church slayings, including her successful call for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds.
Haley brushed off vice presidential speculation Thursday, saying she planned to be at the State House in a year to tout the successes of her efforts to curb criminal domestic violence, an initiative she announced Thursday. “We have got a lot more things to do,” said Haley, who gave a prime-time speech during the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Haley’s selection is seen as part of the Republican Party’s attempts to win over female voters, who will have a chance to elect the first female president if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, also helps address a GOP weakness — diversity.
The nation’s youngest governor called such talk a “waste of time” Thursday. “I’ve never gotten into the speculation of what people think or feel, or why people make decisions,” Haley said.
Democratic leaders said they don’t expect Haley to share a complete picture of South Carolina in her address, citing the lack of money to repair roads and aid poor, rural schools.
“(W)hat they certainly won’t hear about is the despair that has plagued our state as a result of her leadership,” S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison said. “While she’s smiling in front of the cameras, normal people in our state are struggling just to get by.”
Haley said she was invited to deliver the response by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., during the first week of December — weeks before learning the obligation will cause her to miss her alma mater, Clemson University, playing for the national college football championship in Arizona Monday.
“It is going absolutely to kill me to not be at the national championship, but my heart will be in Arizona,” she said.