“Democrats have done everything they can to paint Republicans as a bunch of a grouchy, old, white, rich men,” said Katie Packer, a GOP strategist who worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid. “Anything we can do to take away from those things, make us less grouchy, less rich, less white, less male, I think that helps us as a party.”
Haley would also help Republicans blunt Hillary Clinton’s plan to put the historic nature of her candidacy and women’s issues front and center in her campaign. Those themes could put a male politician, notably the GOP presidential nominee, at a severe disadvantage.
“Haley would fill both the generational and the outsider roles, but her real value would be taking it to Clinton every single day,” said Scott Reed, a Republican strategist who ran Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996.
To be sure, selecting Haley would carry risks. She has little experience in foreign policy, which figures to be a major issue in the campaign. Her two terms in South Carolina have not been free of controversy, either, and—as always with a candidate new to the national stage—there are concerns about whether she could handle the intensified spotlight.
But it’s the way she conducted herself during a national tragedy last year that brought renewed attention to her as a possible vice presidential pick.
In June, Haley made national headlines when she called for the removal of the Confederate flag from state grounds after the murder of nine members of a black church in Charleston. Haley, who had previously supported flying the flag, said she could no longer justify to her children its presence. Her decision earned widespread praise from leaders of both parties, including President Obama, who praised the governor’s “eloquence” on the subject.
She instantly shot from a long-shot veep possibility to a leading prospect.
"She’d be on anybody’s list,” Mike Huckabee, one 14 GOP presidential candidates and a former Arkansas governor, told Fox News at the time. “She’s done a terrific job in South Carolina.”
Huckabee, trailing badly in both national and state polls, is unlikely to win the GOP nomination. But Haley does have friendly relationships with a handful of other Republican presidential contenders, particularly fellow governors. She has served on the executive committee of the Republican Governors Association since 2011, including while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chaired the organization, and she has a good relationship with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush campaigned for Haley when she was up for reelection in 2014.
Because of her involvement with the RGA, Haley is already seasoned at stumping for other candidates. She could also help balance a ticket with a senator, like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, at the top.
But there's one ticket she almost certainly wouldn't be on: the current GOP poll-leader's. Haley has repeatedly criticized Donald Trump's incendiary rhetoric: Back in July, she said she was disappointed in Trump's "combative tone," and last month she called the real estate mogul's plan to ban Muslim immigrants from entering the country "absolutely un-American."