Nikki Haley, the former US ambassador to the United Nations and two-term governor of South Carolina, is reportedly poised to announce she is seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
With a campaign kick-off planned for 15 February in Charleston, South Carolina, the 51-year-old would become the second major Republican candidate for the presidency, after her former boss Donald Trump launched his bid in November.
Ms Haley would be the third Indian-American to seek a presidential nomination. She follows Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose bid in 2015 never gained significant traction, and current Vice-President Kamala Harris, who sought the 2020 nomination.
During her time as South Carolina governor, Ms Haley developed a reputation as a business-friendly leader who focused on attracting major companies to the state. She gained national prominence for her response to the racially motivated mass shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in 2015, which included a successful push to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol in Columbia.
Although she endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio in the 2016 Republican presidential contest, Mr Trump offered her a position in his cabinet as UN ambassador after he won the White House. She served there for two years and, unlike many of Mr Trump’s early appointees, never had a public falling out with the president.
Ms Haley did, however, criticise Mr Trump’s behaviour up to and during the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters. The day after the riot, she said in a speech that “his actions since election day will be judged harshly by history”.
Later that year, as speculation surrounding her political future swirled and Mr Trump regained his standing and influence within the party, Ms Haley said she would not run for president in 2024 if her former boss sought the nomination.
She backed away from that position in the past few months, however.
“When you’re looking at a run for president, you look at two things,” she said in a Fox News interview last week. “You first look at does the current situation push for new leadership? The second questions is, am I that person that could be that new leader?”
Ms Haley answered both questions with a yes. It suggests a possible campaign strategy that contrasts her relative youth with both Mr Trump and, if she were to win the nomination, Democrat Joe Biden.
According to Mr Trump, Ms Haley called him recently to inform him of her interest in running. He said he told her she should do it and he would welcome the competition
“I said, ‘Look, you know, go by your heart if you want to run’,” he said.
The former president made those remarks shortly before a campaign appearance on Saturday in Ms Haley’s home state, which is poised to become a key early battleground for the Republican nomination.
Most early polls show Mr Trump with a comfortable lead in the state whose primary he won on his way to the presidency in 2016 – an indication of the uphill battle the former ambassador will have, even on what should be friendly ground.
A recent survey by the polling firm Trafalgar Group that included current and likely candidates has Mr Trump in first place with 43% and Ms Haley in fourth at 12%.