[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/23/art.haley.wall.gi.jpg caption="Nikki Haley won a contentious GOP runoff in South Carolina Tuesday night, and on Wednesday, the party gathered for a unity rally."]
Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) - The South Carolina GOP, still licking its wounds after a nasty gubernatorial primary that exposed long-standing rifts within the party, gathered in Columbia Wednesday for a "unity rally" to show support for their newly-minted nominee, Nikki Haley.
Haley sailed to victory in Tuesday's primary runoff against Rep. Gresham Barrett by a whopping 30-point margin. But some establishment figures are reluctant to embrace Haley - a devotee of Gov. Mark Sanford's uncompromising fiscally conservative principles - out of fear that she might pursue ideological fights with the legislature instead of forging compromise.
Haley, though, made it clear that that her sweeping win was a validation of her small government message.
"The reason South Carolina is moving in this direction is because all of the people have stood behind the fact that they want the government to understand the value of the dollar," Haley said. "This is the Republican Party that's going to help us get there and get behind that message."
Haley said she received congratulatory phone calls from numerous national figures, including potential presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal. If she wins in November, Haley's position as governor of a crucial early primary state could make her a potential kingmaker in the presidential nominating process.
GOP chairwoman Karen Floyd was eager to embrace Haley's outsider message, punctuating her remarks with frequent references to reform. She even called this year's slate of Republican candidates "the most reform minded ticket in the history of South Carolina."
"We have heard what South Carolina has said," Floyd told a crowd of activists, county party chairs and state legislators.
Tim Scott, who won his party's nomination in the first Congressional District and is favored to become the first Republican African-American congressman since J.C. Watts retired in 2003, made the trip to Columbia to appear on stage with Haley.
But two central figures from the messy Republican primary, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and his ally, state Sen. Jake Knotts, did not bother to show up at the event. Haley accused Bauer of pushing rumors that she had an extramarital affair, while Knotts infamously called Haley, who is Indian-American, "a raghead."
Bauer's absence went largely unnoticed, and Haley's other two primary opponents, Barrett and Attorney General Henry McMaster, embraced their new standard-bearer.
"I am going to do everything I can within my power in the next few months to ensure that Republican remain in charge, that Nikki Haley is the governor of this great state," Barrett said.
Sanford also attended but did not speak. Still, his appearance elicited a standing ovation from a crowd that included several people who called for his ouster last summer after he left the state to visit his mistress.
Floyd concluded the breakfast meeting with a pivot to the general election, in which Haley will face Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen.
The GOP chair tried to link Sheheen to Democratic Senate nominee Alvin Greene - who mysteriously won the June 8 primary and faces felony obscenity charges - by repeatedly describing the Democratic ticket as "the Greene-Sheheen Democratic machine."
Carol Fowler, the state Democratic Party chairwoman, called the jibe "a silly gimmick."
"Alvin Greene is irrelevant to South Carolina voters and he is irrelevant to the fall campaign," Fowler told CNN. "They are looking for gimmicks to take attention away from the fact that they have just nominated another Mark Sanford. I don't think people of this state want another four years of what they just lived through."