South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech next Tuesday, adding to speculation that she is being groomed as a potential vice presidential candidate for the GOP ticket.
Haley's office confirmed on Tuesday evening that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan chose her to give the GOP's address. Haley, a second-term governor from a hotly-contested early primary state, gained national recognition earlier this year for how she handled the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol building following the mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston.
As a woman, an Indian-American, and the youngest governor in the country, it comes as no surprise that Haley is seen as a rising star and possible veep pick for the Republican party, which struggles to appeal to the very demographics she represents.
"I was honored to be asked by Speaker Ryan and Senator McConnell to deliver the Republican address to the nation," Haley said in a statement on Tuesday. "This is a time of great challenges for our country, but also of great opportunities. I intend to speak about both."
Being chosen to deliver the State of the Union response is usually a reliable indicator that the party establishment sees a politician as having a bright future.
Many Americans were first introduced to a young, sweaty junior senator named Marco Rubio when he gave his infamous water-sipping 2013 State of the Union response. With his Poland Spring-guzzling days behind him, Rubio is now a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
High-ranking Republicans heaped praise on Haley following the announcement on Tuesday night.
"Nikki Haley has led an economic turnaround and set a bold agenda for her state, getting things done and becoming one of the most popular governors in America," Ryan said in a statement. "In a year when the country is crying out for a positive vision and alternative to the status quo, Gov. Haley is the exact right choice to deliver the Republican address to the nation."
McConnell said Haley "believes deeply in the promise of the country we all share," adding that she "knows the American Dream and wants to see every American share in it, and we're pleased that she will be delivering this year's Republican Address."
Asked in September at a National Press Club event in Washington, DC whether she'd consider offers to join the Republican ticket, Haley was not shy. "If a presidential nominee wants to sit down and talk," she responded, "then I will sit down and talk."
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