CHARLESTON: Former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced Tuesday she is running for president in 2024, challenging fellow Republican candidate Donald Trump by proposing a “new generation” of leadership in Washington. “I’m Nikki Haley and I’m running for president,” the 51-year-old former governor of South Carolina and the child of Indian immigrants said in a video statement.
“It’s time for a new generation of leadership – to rediscover fiscal responsibility, secure our border, and strengthen our country, our pride and our purpose,” she said in the video shot in Bamberg, the South Carolina town of her birth. Casting herself as a younger, fresher alternative to the 76-year-old former president Trump, Haley had been hinting at a possible run for weeks and teasing a “big announcement” on Feb 15. In the end, she made her presidential aims official a day early, on Valentine’s Day.
Haley is positioning herself as a changemaker who can reinvigorate a party and country she says have lost their way in recent years, and she played up her personal background as a way to unite a nation strained by racial tensions. “I was the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. Not black, not white. I was different,” she said in the clip. “But my mom would always say, ‘Your job is not to focus on the differences, but the similarities.'”
“Some look at our past as evidence that America’s founding principles are bad,” she went on. “They say the promise of freedom is just made up. Some think our ideas are not just wrong, but racist, and evil. Nothing could be further from the truth.” Haley is unlikely to be the last Republican to throw their hat in the ring. Some Washington watchers speculated that her announcement might prompt a stampede from rivals such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Trump’s vice president Mike Pence.
Haley also took a swipe at the current president – who has not formally announced his re-election campaign but is expected to run again – saying “Joe Biden’s record is abysmal”. “But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Washington establishment has failed us over and over and over again,” she said.
At this point in the 2020 cycle, 10 Democrats had launched campaigns or exploratory committees, but Trump and now Haley are the only Republicans to do so officially this time around. In her announcement she blasted China over its “genocide” of ethnic minority members, warned that Russia was “on the march,” and accused Iran of “murder” of its own people for challenging the government.
Haley vowed to be tough with America’s rivals. “You should know this about me: I don’t put up with bullies,” she said. “And when you kick back, it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels.” Haley rose quickly in South Carolina politics, building a reputation as a plain-spoken conservative. She endorsed senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz during the 2016 Republican presidential primary, and slammed Trump as “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president”.
But after Trump won he tapped her as his UN envoy, and Haley became the face of diversity in a cabinet criticized for being too white. Since leaving government in 2018 with a reputation for standing up to her mercurial boss, her occasional praise of the Trump presidency has been offset by her criticism of his personal conduct, including his involvement in the 2021 attack on the US Capitol. – AFP