Sioux City, Iowa (CNN) – South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said her decision to endorse Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential race became clear two weeks ago.
At the end of November, Haley ducked out of a Republican Governors Association meeting in Orlando and drove down to Tampa to meet privately with Romney.
There, Haley said she had to ask Romney "some tough questions" about a variety of topics – including the controversial health insurance mandate he implemented in Massachusetts.
"I have talked to him about the health care situation," she told CNN in a phone interview Friday. "He is very aware that that is not something I want in South Carolina."
Haley said Romney assured her that he will grant a waiver to South Carolina to opt out of President Barack Obama's health care law, and said he will push to repeal the law if elected.
She came away from the meeting convinced.
Romney won her over by sounding more like "a leader" than a candidate, explained Haley, who supported the former Massachusetts governor when she was a little-known state legislator in 2008.
"It was at that point, I can honestly tell you, that I knew this was not the same person that I knew in 2008," she told CNN. "You can just sense there is a different feel from him. In 2008, he was a candidate, and the focus was on winning. Now when you talk to him, it's about what he will do, how he can fix this. He has thought a lot about public policy."
"I am strong on standing next to Mitt Romney," Haley added.
Though Haley backed Romney in the last race, since becoming governor in 2010, she has been courted by nearly every GOP candidate and even welcomed several of them to stay overnight at the South Carolina governor's mansion.
Haley said she can sleep at night backing Romney because he is best equipped to fix the three main issues that consume her as governor – "spending, jobs and the economy."
She said Romney would be a better president than the GOP frontrunner, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, because he has been a governor rather than a member of Congress.
"I didn't want anybody who was involved in anything to do with the chaos that was in Washington," Haley said.
"The biggest contrast is, I want someone who knows how to lead, who has made tough decisions, not just made a vote," she said when asked about Gingrich. "That was really a defining factor. I didn't want anybody that involved in Washington."
Haley harshly condemned Gingrich earlier this year when he questioned Paul Ryan's Medicare reform proposals, and said those comments were a factor in her decision not to endorse him.
She said, though, that she plans to avoid attacking Gingrich or any other Republican candidate as the campaign heats up.
"I don't feel like I have to push down any other candidate to make Mitt look better," she said.
Haley has burnished her national reputation since taking office in January, but her standing among the Republicans who will vote in South Carolina's presidential primary has lately slipped.
A recent Winthrop University poll put her approval rating among Republicans in the state at slightly over 50 percent.
Even so, Haley vowed to campaign at Romney's side when he visits the Palmetto State ahead of the January 21 primary.
She will be with him on Friday at an event in Greenville, and again over the weekend at campaign stops in Charleston and Myrtle Beach.
Despite endorsing him, Haley would not guarantee a Romney victory in South Carolina, where Romney's northern pedigree and evolving positions on core conservative issues have long been viewed with skepticism by many Republicans.
"That's up to the people of South Carolina to decide," she told CNN when asked if Romney will win the state's primary. "He is going to have to continue to work very had to win their support. I am not in the prediction business."
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What Nikki Haley is not saying is that neither one of thes two candidates can solve the fourth and ultimately the largest problem for this country; Corruption In Washington.
This problem is really the root cause of all the other problems.
Why can't people see that the only real honest politician (an oxymoron in most cases) is Dr Paul.
The rest (And I am talking about both Democrats and republicans)are nothing more than incompetent, self serving scum bags.
We need to clean out Washington and we can start with the next election.
Is it just me or does there seem to be more going on within the GOP than we the public know. I think there is. Their seems to be a civil war within the Republican party. The failed leadership of the GOP and the members belonging to that extremist group called the Tea party and moderate Republicans seem to be going at it. It makes no sense to me why in the world would members of a party vote for someone their party had removed as Speaker because of ethics. This party could very well be on the verge of implosion.
Romney 2012 ! Proven to be successful. All those who do not agree to this statement should really look at the positives. Stop trying to find negatives in everything as in all cases. There are negatives and positives to everything. People are really stupid when it comes to say negatives, as the people that say the negatives are not in the position to speak. But, since we do not know them. Romney is truelly a leader. I just want to see him become president, so people can see what he will bring to this Nation. Success !!
Romney 2012 !!! This comes from a Salvadorian, now Citizen, Living in Atlanta, GA.
Mitt Romney on Mitt Romney: "I'm someone who is moderate, my views are progressive." Mitt Romney 2002
Hey, GOPers. Do any of YOU know who Mitt Romney really is and what he stands for? He seems a bit confused himself.
Haley is about as credible as Richard Nixon was. Many people here in South Carolina realize she is completely corrupt.
Her endorsement of Romney will be about as helpful as that of Christine O'Donnell ... helpful for all anyone running against Romney, that is.
she said, Rick Perry, now this dude...flip flop????????
Are we supposed to care who this woman backs????
It looks like all the Governors are lining up behind the former Governor. They do tend to stick together. But in Romney's case it makes more sense because he's also had a LOT of executive experience, something Obama is severely lacking in and it shows every day. Romney has proven himself a leader repeatedly. Even beter, a successful leader. Obama, not so much. You can tell Obama doesn't fell comfortable out front on any issue. Why else would he have all those "I vote present" votes? We're seeign the same behavior in the Oval Office. Even many Democrats have called him on his lack of leadership.
LOL! Obama will still win re-election. Big flip-floppers like Romney don't make good leaders. When we go in the voting booths in November, we'll be voting for Obama overwhelmingly, not Romney the Flip Flopper.
anybody ask to see her birth certificate yet? And I mean the LONG form
who cares! she has her own breaking scandal to deal with! And who wants the backing of a governor with 37% approval of South Carolina? the nominee needs to WIN South Carolina!