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Nikki Haley Emerges as Trump’s First Rival in 2024 Presidential Race

By: Akanksha Swarup

Edited By: Shankhyaneel Sarkar


Last Updated: February 15, 2023, 14:30 IST

New Delhi

Nikki Haley announced she is running for the US President in the 2024 Presidential Elections and emerged as the first contender against Donald Trump in the GOP primaries (Image: AP File)

Nikki Haley announced she is running for the US President in the 2024 Presidential Elections and emerged as the first contender against Donald Trump in the GOP primaries (Image: AP File)

Experts would view Nikki Haley as former US president Trump’s ‘frenemy’ but the former South Carolina governor may have what it takes to change the Republican Party’s fortunes

It’s official. Nikki Haley on Tuesday announced that she will make a bid for the White House in the upcoming 2024 Presidential Elections and became the first challenger to former US President Donald Trump in the Republican primaries.

Haley, who served as the governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017 - becoming the state’s first female governor - and also as the American ambassador to the United Nations under the Trump administration, is being seen by many as a young changemaker.


They believe Haley, a daughter of Indian immigrants, a woman and also a conservative, has the advantage of addressing issues of gender and race.

In her announcement video, Haley outlined that the nation and (the Republican Party) needs a new leadership and has to undergo generational changes. It is a direct jibe not just at the current US President, Joe Biden, but also at former US president Donald Trump.

“You should know this about me. I don’t put up with bullies. And when you kick back it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels,” the former South Carolina governor said in her announcement video.

Former US president Donald Trump has often been labelled as a bully by the American press and also by his opponents.

Haley’s decision to challenge her former boss, after initially deciding not to, may have even surprised Trump as he on January 28 seemed confident that Haley would not run against him.

“I talked to her for a little while, I said, ‘Look, you know, go by your heart if you want to run’. She’s publicly said that ‘I would never run against my president, he was a great president,’” Trump said during his first major campaign swing to New Hampshire and South Carolina last month.

Fight Against Racial Discrimination

Nikki Haley was born as Nimrata Nikki Randhawa in 1972 in rural South Carolina’s Bamberg. Her parents immigrated to the US from Punjab and set up a clothing store there, while pursuing their academic careers. Her father taught at Voorhees College while her mother worked as a teacher in several public schools in Bamberg.

Haley’s image of a young woman and a daughter of immigrants worked heavily in her favour. She became the first woman and the first person of colour to be elected as South Carolina’s governor.

Under her leadership, legislation was signed to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds after a white supremacist gunned down black parishioners at a church in Charleston in 2015.

She was also opposed to Trump - when the latter announced his presidential bid in 2016 - and endorsed Florida’s Republican senator Marco Rubio and Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz. Haley characterised Trump as “the racist the Grand Old Party must reject” and “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president”.

She also lashed out at Trump in 2016 for his reluctance to disavow the American white supremacist group, the Ku Klux Klan and for insulting former US president George W. Bush.

Problematic U-Turns?

Political pundits and a section of the American media feel Haley’s u-turns paint a less reliable and misleading image.

Haley furthered this notion herself when she agreed to serve as the US ambassador to the UN - a much coveted Cabinet-level position following Trump’s victory in the US Presidential Polls in 2016.

She also exited the position abruptly in 2018.

Haley chose not to challenge Trump in the 2020 US Elections and instead returned to South Carolina. She joined the board of global aerospace company Boeing, where she was paid a whopping $200,000.

She also wrote two books - With All Due Respect (2019) and If You Want Something Done (2022).

Following the Capitol Hill riots, Haley chose not to condemn her former boss and aligned with him in the aftermath of the incident.

Many view Nikki Haley as a time-server and as someone who personifies the Republican Party’s shift towards how they currently perceive Donald Trump.

The former US president’s divisive politics or disagreements on policies whether foreign or domestic were a matter of concern. Leading Republicans are well aware that Trump’s political strength within the GOP is diminishing.

Even Republicans previously associated with the former president and even his former main allies - former US vice-president Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo - are now plotting their own campaigns to take down the man they once served.

Also Read: ‘Ron Would Not Become Florida Governor if it Wasn’t for Me’: Trump Calls DeSantis ‘Disloyal’

Florida governor Ron DeSantis, Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin, senator Ted Cruz of Texas and South Carolina senator Tim Scott are the other Republicans expected to launch their 2024 campaigns - with the Florida governor expected to give Trump a tough challenge.

Needless to say, Nikki Haley has emerged as Trump’s first challenger within the Republican Party and as many would see it, a frenemy - often accused of being opportunistic for the sake of political mileage.

But isn’t that also part of the transactional nature of politics?

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    For now the 51-year-old is eyeing to become the first female president of the United States. That would also make her the first American president of Indian descent. But Haley’s strategy will have to be carefully calculated - one that takes her beyond being a younger and more unconventional alternative to Donald Trump.

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    first published:February 15, 2023, 10:46 IST
    last updated:February 15, 2023, 14:30 IST