Greenville, South Carolina (CNN) - Surrounded by a massive American flag, a modest late-summer crowd and three governors with possible designs on the White House, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced Monday that she will seek a second term.
At a brief, sun-drenched outdoor rally in downtown Greenville, Haley, one of the most vulnerable members of the 2010 class of Republican governors, asked for another four years in office and rattled off her accomplishments: more than 37,000 new jobs across the state, welfare reform, tax cuts and rigid opposition to President Barack Obama's health care reform law.
"I said when I ran the first time that I don't want to run again if I don't think we're not moving the ball," Haley said. "I need to know we're making a difference, and we're moving the ball. And we did that. It's not what we said, it's what we've done."
Sharing a stage with three out-of-state governors known for their conservative views, Haley looked to be making her re-election message about national issues in an effort to tie her Democratic foe, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, to the policies of Obama, whose lost South Carolina by 10 percentage points in the 2012 presidential race.
Haley denied that was her strategy in a news conference before the rally with two of those governors, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
But Jindal and Perry, who are considering presidential runs in 2016, interjected to talk up the national implications of Haley's contest and other gubernatorial races on the ballot in next year's midterm elections. Republican governors, they argued, offer a blueprint for governance in Washington.
"It's about red states versus blue states," said Perry, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2012 and appeared relaxed in a pair of contemporary, thick-framed eyeglasses before local and national reporters. "It is a national conversation that I hope Americans are engaging with over the course of the next few years."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declined to appear at the news conference with Haley but took the stage at the rally to lambaste the public sector unions with which he has tangled in Madison. He highlighted Haley's high-profile clash with the National Labor Relations Board after it tried to block the opening of a Boeing plant in Charleston.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, an enormously popular figure with the state's conservative base, emceed the rally.
Public polling of the race at this early stage is spotty, but operatives on both sides acknowledge Haley has a built-in advantage given the state's Republican tilt and the governor's power of incumbency.
Democrats, though, are confident that Sheheen, a self-styled country lawyer from Camden, can unseat Haley in a rematch next November. Haley defeated Sheheen in 2010 by just 4 percentage points.
Their optimism was on full display Monday.
The South Carolina Democratic Party brought almost 50 protesters to bracket Haley with a pre-event news conference where party chairman Jaime Harrison attacked the governor's record on education, infrastructure, the state's 8% unemployment rate and a hacking scandal that exposed millions of personal financial records.
"The one thing she is really good at is promoting herself," Harrison said of Haley. "She is not good at fixing our schools, she is not good at building our roads, she is not good at bringing our jobs. She is good at promoting herself and thinking about all of her national aspirations."
The protesters lingered during the announcement speech, often booing loudly from a distance as Perry, Walker, Jindal or Haley unleashed a volley of attacks on Obama.
The timing of Haley's announcement, on a late weekday afternoon in the waning days of August, made for an unexceptional crowd - an audience that included nearly two dozen elected officials. All told, there were about 100 Haley supporters on hand.
Also on hand for the announcement were a number of professional political operatives, no doubt there to catch a glimpse of the three governors who might seek the 2016 GOP presidential nomination – and spend an inordinate amount of time in the early primary state in the process.
Listening to the governors, it seemed the rally was as much about the Obama administration as it was about Haley.
Jindal, for instance, devoted a portion of remarks to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, another potential 2016 candidate. He blasted her handling of the attack in Benghazi, Libya, last year that left four Americans dead.
But Monday was not about anyone's national ambitions, Walker told reporters - before heading to a private Haley fundraiser that would put him in the same room with a number of the state's top GOP powerbrokers.
"Anybody who is focused on anything beyond 2014 is doing a disservice to the party and to the country," Walker said. "We have to make sure governors like Nikki Haley get elected again."