Haley explains her decision to back Romney, not Gingrich
December 16th, 2011
10:44 AM ET
10 years ago

Haley explains her decision to back Romney, not Gingrich

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."

Also see:

Gingrich 'editing' his words as campaign acknowledges concern

Bachmann camp: Gingrich morphs positions based on 'who's paying'

Perry moving staff to Iowa

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Nikki Haley • South Carolina
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    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.

    December 16, 2011 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  2. GI Joe

    She doesn't have to explain - the people that pull her puppett strings told her who to back. That's it in a nutshell - she'll be wealthy when she leaves office.

    December 16, 2011 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  3. skalamba

    Absolutely Gov. Haley is 100% RIGHT. Right here in California, San Jose. we will be backing up ROMNEY!!!!!
    last night in the debate as you can see ROMNEY did the last argument and he is right on the issues hit OBAMA, ROMNEY is steady, and very consistent on his answers. ROMNEY!!!!! has a proven record and has things that can turn this NATION around and has a proven record and has done it.


    December 16, 2011 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  4. Faye

    Did she ever talk in private to Newt Gingrich? Rick Perry? Michele Bachmann? Rick Santorum? Seems like she had her mind made up long before this conversation with Romney.

    December 16, 2011 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  5. Thomas

    South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley needs to explain the expense to the tax payers on her Summer trip to Paris !

    King Mitt / Queen Haley

    December 16, 2011 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    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.
    Most people think Gingrich spoke frankly and truthfully. Wouldn't her opinions suggest that she favors getting rid of Medicare as we know it? Mitt Romney is certainly in favor of getting rid of Medicare. One thing is for sure, the Ryan Plan cannot coexist with the ACA health care reforms.

    December 16, 2011 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  7. Sniffit

    Nobody. Cares.

    December 16, 2011 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Romney's PACs distributed some $400,000 in campaign contributions in 25 different states in 2009 and
    2010, including $62,000 to now-Govenrors Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) and $30,000 to Terry Branstad (R-Iowa), both of whom won their races. Romney's largess, along with Haley and Branstad's victories, gave him a pair of powerful potential backers leading into next year's presidential race."

    Bless her heart, Nikki Haley is now endorsing Mitt Romney. Quoting Haley: "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."

    Uh huh, Nikki. Whatever you say, sweet pea. (wink-wink).

    December 16, 2011 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  9. Gurgi

    What she doesn't mention is that Gingrich would be an Obama 2nd term.

    December 16, 2011 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  10. GI Joe

    She thinks Romney creates jobs? In India (for her friends and family there).

    December 16, 2011 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  11. Anonymous

    No need to explain you corrupt back-water governor. Surely Karl Rove and other hidden bagmen in your deathcult have made it clear to you that Flipper is The Chosen One. If you did not endorse Flipper you have to know your future political aspirations were toast. Rove probably has enough dirt on you already to flush you off to obscurity with one nod.

    December 16, 2011 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  12. Bayley0402

    Why would we possibly care what she says, what she does and who she endorses??

    December 16, 2011 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  13. Texas

    Not sure if endorsements matter. Romney is too arrogant and rich thinking to understand the needs of low to middle class American(s) people - at this point in time. Republican will need someone other than Romney to beat President Obama - trust me!

    December 16, 2011 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  14. Mike Botwin

    As South Carolina goes, so goes the nation. Well, at least the state in the bottom 2% of every socioeconomic indicator.

    December 16, 2011 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  15. Susan

    Nikki Haley has probably had one of the worst weeks of her political life, this week. Meanwhile the national media is treating her like a superstar of the Republican party when in fact she is loathed by a good many people in SC, including Republicans. No wonder she wants a national profile because she is just about finished in South Carolina.

    December 16, 2011 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  16. Al-NY,NY

    did anyone hear something like a cricket? I could have sworn some buzzing sound was coming out of SC. Oh,"Nikki" (yeah right "Nimrata") it's you spouting off again on something we don't care about

    December 16, 2011 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  17. GI Joe

    Bringing outsiders into this country to work is just as job-killing for us as sending jobs to India.

    December 16, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  18. Arnie

    Her approval rating is abysmal. If I am Newt, I will be happy. Romney2012, you better hope he gets out of the primary.

    December 16, 2011 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  19. vic , nashville ,tn

    Simple GOP establishment decided Romney is their candidate before the elections

    December 16, 2011 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  20. The Real Tom Paine

    Truth and Nothing But the Truth, how on earth could you say Romney was a successful governor? He left office with an approval rating under 40%, with unemployment twice the rate it was when he entered office, and a job creation ranking of 48th. He knew he stood no chance of being re-elected, so he opted out and ran for the top job, touting the health care plan he originally opposed and now runs away from. Bain Capital was a case where he cut jobs, not creating them, and pocketed the proceeds of the sale. He has never produced anything, invented anything, or even run anything effectively, except his portfolio.

    December 16, 2011 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  21. DJH

    She's backing him this time, just like last time, and even though she is our Governor now, she still has no clout in this State. This endorsement means nothing. (BTW, it's obvious he bought the endorsement with the Healthcare promise.) The reality of the situation is that he will not do well here because of his continually changing stance on just about everything, and the fact that he is a Mormon. Religion is everything in this State. IMO, what about for Perry. I suspect he will do quite well here.

    December 16, 2011 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  22. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    >Wouldn't her opinions suggest that she favors getting rid of Medicare as we know it?

    Quite a stretch there Gumby... The truth is that Medicare is getting rid of itself. Its gotten huge and doesn't show any signs of stopping. Left as is , it'll crush the country in debt, or far higher taxes to continue to feed its growth. Nobody on the planet believes it can continue to exist as it is. Do you?

    December 16, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |

    Who is this woman, why is she relevant. She is a fake conservative, her or her family being new to the United States. She has no historical perspective on American Conservatism and became a republican only because she is born again. She has more of a South Asian perspective on life because of her heritage, and that is fine. But to call her a conservative definitely is out of touch with the thought of William Buckley and Barry Goldwater. To them, religion was a private issue and smaller less intrusive government was their goal. That is not Ms. Haley

    December 16, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  24. ja

    how many votes can haley cast, is it one or many

    December 16, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  25. ST

    Her endorsement does not carry any weight. Christ Christie endorsed their man Romney and did not help him at all. The man is not moving anywhere in polls. He has been hanging on 23% and this is not going to change!

    December 16, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
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