Nikki Haley, a former two-term South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is anticipated to announce a 2024 White House bid, becoming the second Republican to officially wade into the GOP presidential primary and the first to challenge former President Trump.
The official announcement, expected to come on Feb. 15, caps months of speculation over whether the South Carolina Republican would throw her hat into the ring and comes as Trump racks up recent endorsements from top Republicans in the Palmetto State.
Here are five things to know about Haley as she prepares to officially jump into the 2024 presidential race:
She’s a two-term governor from South Carolina
Haley was first elected to the governor’s mansion in South Carolina in 2010, beating out former state Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D) and making history as the first woman and first Indian American to be elected to the state’s highest office. She survived a rematch against Sheheen in 2014, winning a second term.
During her first gubernatorial bid, Haley lagged behind several other major GOP gubernatorial contenders ahead of the 2010 primary, which included then-Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, then-Attorney General Henry McMaster and then-Rep. Gresham Barrett. But she received a boost to her campaign in May when Sarah Palin, running as Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) vice presidential candidate, endorsed Haley. She also notched help and endorsements from ReformSC and the conservative Club for Growth.
She was forced into a runoff against Barrett after receiving barely less than half the vote in the GOP primary, though she ultimately prevailed later that year before taking on Sheheen.
She also served in the state House between 2005 and 2011, ousting incumbent state Rep. Larry Koon (R), who had served in the state’s lower chamber since the mid-1970s, in a primary runoff during her first bid.
Haley often spotlights her background as a child of Indian immigrants
Haley, born Nimrata Randhawa, often references her background as the daughter of Indian immigrants. Her parents, Raj Kaur Randhawa and Ajit Singh Randhawa, are from India’s northwest Punjab and emigrated to the United States, where her family opened what would become a successful gift and clothing business called Exotica International LLC, according to CNN.
Starting at 13 years old, she began keeping the books to her family’s business. Her parents later retired, and the business ended in 2008.
“My mom built a successful business. My dad taught 30 years at a historically Black college. And the people of South Carolina chose me as their first minority and first female governor,” Haley said while speaking at the Republican National Convention in August 2020. “America is a story that’s a work in progress.”
She also drew headlines during that convention when she argued that the United States was “not a racist county” — comments that followed months of protesting earlier that summer after the murder of George Floyd by police.
“In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country,” she said. “This is personal for me. I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants.”
She served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under Trump
Haley served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration between 2017 and 2018. During her tenure, the U.S. decided to exit the U.N. Human Rights Council in June 2018. The country would later rejoin the council in 2021 under the Biden administration.
She alleged at the time that the council was “politicizing and scapegoating countries with positive human rights records” and described it as a “protector of human rights abusers and cesspool of political bias.” The United States’s move to exit the Iran nuclear deal also took place while Haley was serving in the Trump administration — a move that she’s supported since then.
Her decision to step down from her role as U.N. ambassador later in 2018 shocked some within the Trump administration. The timing followed Congress’s Supreme Court confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and roughly a month ahead of the midterms. She batted away questions at the time amid speculation that she might be considering a White House run in 2020.
She also had a falling out with the former president
In the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, where a mob of pro-Trump supporters ransacked the Capitol to try to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election results, Haley criticized the former president for his words that day and during other watershed moments while in office.
“He was wrong with his words in Charlottesville, and I told him so at the time. He was badly wrong with his words yesterday. And it wasn’t just his words. His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history,” Haley said in January 2021 during the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, according to Politico.
She went even further during an interview with Politico magazine published the next month, saying she was “disgusted” about the way Trump behaved toward former Vice President Mike Pence during the day of the Capitol riot and claimed that the former president wouldn’t be running for federal office again.
“We need to acknowledge he let us down,” she told the magazine. “He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”
Though their relationship afterward was icy — a source familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill that same month that Trump had turned down her request to meet at his Mar-a-Lago residence — there are signs that things between the two may have smoothed over since then.
The former president asserted over the weekend while speaking to reporters that Haley had reached out to him about a possible 2024 run of her own, saying, “I talked to her for a little while. I said, ‘Look, you know, go by your heart if you want to run,’” according to CBS News.
Polling has her in the single digits — for now
Current public polling shows Haley in the single digits in a hypothetical GOP primary. A Morning Consult poll released last month, which surveyed potential GOP primary voters, showed the former South Carolina governor receiving 2 percent support among a list of possible Republican presidential contenders like Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Pence.
A Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey released exclusively to The Hill last month also showed Haley receiving 3 percent support among Republican voters in a hypothetical eight-way GOP primary. She trailed Trump, who received 48 percent, DeSantis receiving 28 percent and Pence at 7 percent. Rubio also received 3 percent.
At the same time, the November midterms have been a reminder that polling isn’t always a reliable indicator of candidate performance, and it’s too soon to say how the former U.N. ambassador may perform in the months to come.