Photo Credit: Richard Ellis/Getty Images
The daughter of Indian immigrants, small-town southern girl who grew up neither white nor black at a time when white and black defined everything, Tea Party favorite. The name Nikki Haley may not ring a bell, but in 2008 neither did Sarah Palin, and this fresh face to GOP politics may just have national aspirations, even though she claims for the moment that she doesn't.
Elected under the flurry of activity that was the rise of the Tea Party, the South Carolina Governor sits in the company of a different sort of elite. The daughter of working-class parents and the product of a two-income household, Governor Haley -- who previously worked as an accountant -- is one of just four Republican women who occupy governors’ offices around the country. A year and a half into her first term, the soft-spoken, but steadfast Republican has released a book about her journey into politics and her frustration at the lack of principle in the political arena.
That book, titled Can’t is Not an Option, has raised questions about the South Carolina Governor’s plans for her political career. Reportedly one part memoir and one part political manifesto, it tells the story of growing up an immigrant in the South and the brutal battle she fought for the Governor’s seat, but also espouses her platform of principle before politics and smaller government all around. Interestingly, it’s not the content that has pundits atwitter, it’s the release date. If President Obama’s 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, is any indication, a national book release is not a bad bid for national recognition before a big run. Which begs the question, could the GOP be the first to bring a woman to the White House?
What once felt improbable at best, now doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Where I once sat in a sea of liberal voices, wondering if I was the only conservative woman with something to say in the country, mine is now just one in an increasingly strong chorus. As a female Republican governor, Haley may be only one of eight percent, but I’ve relished in watching Republican women stand up and blaze trails all around me and if Governor Haley leads the way to the White House, I can’t say my excitement would be containable.
One thing’s for sure, since Hillary Clinton was defeated in the 2008 Democratic primary, the country has been hungry for a woman’s touch on Pennsylvania Avenue, and I think I speak for most when I say it’s not just needed on the Christmas tree and the West Wing decor. That hunger, combined with the increasing support of female voters on the right and the bolder positions Republican women are taking in the public arena could amount to the perfect recipe for getting a woman elected to the second highest office in the land. If that’s the recipe we’re headed for, Governor Haley may be GOP front-runner Mitt Romney’s best pick.
Not only does Haley feed the public’s craving for a female presence on the presidential ticket, she may just be the stone tablet and chisel to Romney’s Etch A Sketch. Though the South Carolina Governor has disappointed some of her Tea Party electorate with concessions aimed at making progress, she’s stayed true to her principles and those are firmly anchored in the right. Conveniently, it’s that anchor and unwavering political compass that former Massachusetts Governor Romney needs to pull in the staunchly conservative voters who have, thus far, been parked in camp Rick Santorum. Of course, as his delegate lead widens Romney may not think he needs help, but I’m not the only one predicting a major public perception problem when he faces off against President Obama in the general election this fall. Where Mitt was headed for nothing more than the lesser of two evils for many conservative voters, Nikki Haley could just make him desirable.