How Nikki Haley Became the GOP's Rising Star

After a decisive runoff victory, Haley is favored to become South Carolina's first female governor

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In a roller-coaster primary contest involving two unsubstantiated affair allegations and a nasty ethnic slur, Nikki Haley has claimed the Republican nomination for South Carolina governor. Trouncing Rep. Gresham Barrett in the runoff race, Haley is now the front-runner for the governor's mansion. Her bid was bolstered by the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the burgeoning Tea Party movement. Now her conservative admirers are celebrating her rise while political observers note the changing face of the party.

  • The GOP's Rising Star, notes Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post: "Haley's easy victory in the state's gubernatorial runoff Tuesday is sure to establish her as the newest rising star in the GOP ranks and a coveted 2012 endorser. Not only does Haley look different than the stereotypical Republican -- she is an Indian-American woman -- but she is also the favorite to be the next governor of a state that will play a very large role in selecting the 2012 presidential nominee."
  • Her Strategy Worked, notes Jeff Zeleny at The New York Timse: "Haley, 38, rose in the polls by promising to break an entrenched network that has dominated state politics for decades. She portrayed the unsubstantiated charges of sexual affairs as retaliation for taking on special interests."
  • A Moment of Genuine Tea Party Pride, writes Dan Riehl: "We haven't felt this good about an election result since our own Mushy Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown won the 'People's Seat' long squatted upon by the seemingly immovable late Senator Teddy Kennedy in last January's special election. Unlike Brown, whose election we fervently promulgated, even as we are not always happy with his RINO-esque votes, Nikki Haley is a true fiscal conservative who gets our Shining-City-Upon-a-Hill juices flowing."
  • Don't Forget the Mark Sanford Factor, writes Ben Smith at Politico: "There's an important underlying story there as well: Though Mark Sanford kept his politically toxic self away from Nikki Haley's campaign, she's very much his protege and her campaign was partially his project. And, quite apart from the GOP hunger for diversity, she stands to be a national figure for some of the reasons he was: She's a very, very conservative figure who will immediately be at war with members of both party in a legislature that likes to spend."
  • Kudos to the Tea Party, writes Peter Ferrara at The American Spectator: "Leading this American renewal is the increasingly brilliant Tea Party movement, which is rapidly disproving all the fears regarding its emergence of a year ago. Rather than dividing the conservative, free market vote, or chasing the Republican Party off an extremist cliff, in race after race it has demonstrated an uncanny ability to coalesce around the most conservative candidate that can win."
  • Don't Start Counting Chickens Yet, writes Mako Yamakura at the Detroit News: "If a single bit of Folks' story breaks true, expect immediate reminders and the real mud to flow... The State set the tone , reporting an undisclosed consulting payment to Haley for 20% of her very modest income at the time. And claims of transparency is hard to promote when $40,000 goes undisclosed from a total of $130k earned by the fam. It's a warning, now, not a mudsling. The GOP nominee is by far the better choice, even Will begrudgingly approved. But more than that, the image so painstakingly created by the GOP has a flaw, if exposed, could really wreak havoc."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.