Nikki Haley not to be ‘underestimated’ in bid for president, former South Carolina GOP officials say
Speaking with Fox News Digital, Katon Dawson, who was born and raised in the state and served as chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party from 2002 to 2009, said he believes that Haley is not to be "underestimated," should she enter the race to become America’s next president.
"Voters know probably not to underestimate Nikki’s political ability to win votes and gather support," Dawson said. "Nikki just works hard, and voters in South Carolina have voted for her for governor twice. . . . She’s a known commodity. She handled things gracefully in South Carolina."
Referring to Haley as a "calming force" during her time as governor, Dawson said he believes that she has the experience to serve in the role of president after she got a "sense of on-the-job training about how bad China is" during her tenure as U.N. ambassador.
"She’s got a lot of cross-references, plus she’s been the CEO of a state with 5.2 million people, so [voters] feel pretty good about her, from what I can tell right now," he added. "I’m for her, and I’m certainly excited about the announcement on Wednesday."
Highlighting the notion that "nobody thought she could win" the governor’s race in South Carolina more than a decade ago, Dawson said he believes that the success of Haley’s expected candidacy in the race will hinge largely on her ability to "provide some sanity to this race."
Dawson, who said that he had urged Haley to enter South Carolina politics years ago, believes that Haley will do well in other early-voting states across the nation.
"There’s a lane and a good chance for Nikki to be very successful, not just in South Carolina," he said. "Nikki Haley’s campaign style is made for New Hampshire. . . . Iowa is a caucus of a tight vote of people, not a lot. I think she will do well there. I think she will be well-received in this race."
Should she announce a White House bid next week, Haley will be the second Republican to do so after former President Donald Trump announced that he would be running for a third time, last year.
While it is unclear whether Haley will earn support from South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott, the state’s senior senator, Republican Lindsey Graham, has said he will support Trump in 2024. Haley faced criticism from the former president after she entered the race, with Trump pointing out that Haley had said in April that she would not enter the 2024 race if were to Trump run.
Alex Stroman, the former executive director for the South Carolina Republican Party, also told Fox that he believes Haley’s candidacy in the race will be perceived well by voters in the state, based on her record as governor and how she "connects" with Americans of all stripes.
"South Carolinians love Nikki Haley because of what she did for our state," he said. "She turned South Carolina into an economic powerhouse, created jobs, made our government more transparent, and was a steady and compassionate leader during crises."
"One of Nikki Haley’s greatest strengths is how she connects with everyday people from all walks of life," Stroman added. "Many people have underestimated her skills before, and that never turned out well for them."
Haley, the daughter of immigrants from India, recently teased her expected presidential announcement in a video shared first with Fox News Digital.
"Where will you stand?" asks the video, with the date of 2/15/23 appearing on the screen.
Political pundits have long viewed Haley as a potential GOP presidential contender, as she crisscrossed the country the past two years through her political group Stand for America, helping fellow Republicans running in the 2022 elections. Haley’s travels took her numerous times to Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, which hold the first, second and fourth contests in the Republican presidential nominating calendar. Haley’s home state of South Carolina votes third in the GOP primary schedule.
It remains to be seen who else will throw their hats into the ring. Among the other top Republicans who appear to be moving towards launching bids are Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former two-term governors Larry Hogan of Maryland and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas.
Fox News Digital confirmed that Haley plans to visit New Hampshire again just after Feb. 15, when she's expected to formally announce her candidacy.
Fox News' Paul Steinhauser and Adam Shaw contributed to this article.