(CNN) - Gov. Nikki Haley, the top Republican in the early presidential contest state of South Carolina, readily revealed her thoughts about the 2012 GOP presidential field, calling the coverage that paints Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ wife as a reluctant spouse “ridiculous.”
“I think it's ridiculous. I think it’s a terrible distraction to a campaign,” Haley said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “He was an amazing reformer in his state. He brought great issues. He showed great courage at times that he needed to. Those are the issues we need to talk about.”
While Daniels weighs a potential bid for the White House, Cheri Daniels appears reluctant to want their life open to the scrutiny that accompanies a presidential campaign.
“I think to go into a candidate’s personal life and to try and attack them and distract the country, people are smarter than that,” Haley said.
But her praise was more tepid for GOP presidential nominee Newt Gingrich. Haley, who has met with potential candidates during swings through her state, said the former House Speaker has always been an ideas man and voters want to hear about “the issues of the day.”
“What we are already starting to see is he’s coming out and showing how his ideas today match the feelings of what we’re dealing with today,” Haley said. “I think that Newt Gingrich has dealt with a lot of issues in the past and I think now he’s going to have to show that he’s got those ideas to deal with the future.”
The first-term governor issued a mixed review to all-but-declared presidential candidate Mitt Romney who this week gave a speech defending the health care reform law passed while he was governor of Massachusetts. There are parallels, including the individual mandate that requires people to have health insurance, between the Massachusetts plan and national health care reform passed last year.
Although Haley said he “absolutely could be a nominee,” the health care issue isn’t going away politically.
“I think that he will have to continue to deal with that issue,” Haley said. “But I think that we are looking for a leader that’s willing to, one, make courageous stands, take strong policy decisions, but two also admit when a mistake was made.”
Haley was elected in 2010 with the early backing of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin – herself a possible 2012 candidate - who she credited with energizing people around the country about politics. For that she said, “There will always be a place for her. But now it’s time to talk about policy.”
“I think if she chooses to get in, she’ll understand that the policy issues of today are relevant and important right now too,” Haley said.
But there was no sugar coating her disdain for a profanity-laced speech given by real estate mogul Donald Trump, who is also considering a presidential run, in Las Vegas.
“That is not appropriate in South Carolina,” Haley said of the conservative state. “We will give all of our candidates respect, and we certainly expect our candidates to come in and give the people of South Carolina respect.”