Nikki Haley is back.
Despite being elected with great fanfare in 2010, the Republican governor of South Carolina had for years all but disappeared from the national political conversation. That all changed very fast this week, when Haley called for the Confederate flag outside her state capitol to be taken down in the aftermath of a racially charged mass shooting that left nine African-American parishioners dead at a historically black church in her state.
The picture was impressive – and historic. Here was a female minority governor in a historically conservative state, flanked by Republicans and Democrats, black and white, many of whom had once argued that there was no need to take down the flag. Haley swiftly and gracefully did what no one had been able to do in 50 years: Declare the flag a divisive symbol and put pressure on South Carolina’s conservative lawmakers to take it down. Lawmakers Tuesday voted to take up the issue, and may well vote to remove the flag in mere weeks.
Plenty of skeptics argue that it shouldn’t have taken a mass shooting for Haley to do the right thing. Others say Haley was merely doing damage control, providing cover to an emerging GOP presidential field that largely shied away from making similar calls after the massacre. But nonetheless, Haley’s strong stand seems like a clear win for her – and potentially elevates the governor’s as a national figure and may have placed her on the short list as a GOP vice presidential nominee in 2016.
“I think it ups her VP stock. There’s no question about it,” said Republican strategist and former John McCain campaign adviser Ford O’Connell. “She started as a bright star but somewhere in the line got lost in the mix. This situation puts her back at the top.”