Late Tuesday evening, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will spell out the Republican Party’s vision for the future of America.
It’s not difficult to see why House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell picked Haley to deliver the GOP response to President Obama’s final State of the Union address. As South Carolina’s first Indian American governor, the 43-year-old lends credibility to the GOP’s ongoing, sometimes tortured attempt to prove it can appeal to women, minorities, and younger voters.
Haley won widespread praise by calling for removal of the Confederate flag from state capitol grounds after a deadly shooting at a black church in Charleston last summer. She styles herself a leader capable of healing a divided nation. She advertises her brand of Republican politics as something new and different.
News that Haley had been tapped to deliver the address has sparked speculation over her potential as a vice-presidential contender. On Monday, Ryan gushed to CNN: “If you want to hear an inclusive leader who’s visionary, who’s got a path for the future, who’s brought people together, who’s unified, it’s Nikki Haley.”
For the Republican Party, Haley seems like an antidote to Donald Trump. The governor helps inoculate the party against criticism aimed at the Republican presidential frontrunner. Trump’s calls for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and rebuke of unauthorized immigrants have risked alienating voters. Haley, on the other hand, invokes her background as the daughter of immigrants to stress tolerance. She has criticized her party for taking a tone that “often appears cold and unwelcoming to minorities,” warning: “That’s shameful and that has to change.”