Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina delivered the GOP’s rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Viewers who managed to tear their attention away from the governor’s curiously clenched jaw long enough to hear the words coming out of her mouth may have been surprised by the speech itself. Haley’s harshest criticism of Obama was that “the President’s record has often fallen far short of his soaring words.”
Instead of going for the president’s jugular, Haley chided members of her own party for refusing to work across the aisle. Republicans needed to be honest with themselves, Haley said, “While Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around.”
“We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken,” she added.
She went on to take a swipe at the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump.
“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation,” Haley said, undoubtedly referring to Trump’s call to tempoarily bar all Muslims entering the country. “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.
Predictably, figures on the party’s far right did not take Haley’s rebuttal well. “J@s@sF-ingChr@st – even GOP response to Obama’s SOTU is a paean to immigrants. And GOP can’t figure out why Trump is sweeping the country,” Ann Coulter wrote on Twitter. The conservative commentator added, “Trump should deport Nikki Haley.”
Talk show host Laura Ingraham seemed equally unimpressed, tweeting that Obama and Haley should have appeared together in a joint rebuttal to Trump and Ted Cruz. “The country is lit up w/ a populist fever & the GOP responds by digging in, criticizing the GOP candidates dominating polls?! NOT SMART,” Ingraham wrote.
Her response may have disappointed those on the party’s fringe, but it was praised by the Republican establishment. Marco Rubio, who memorably delivered the party’s rebuttal in 2013, praised her performance on Fox. “She did fantastic…I thought she was the perfect person to deliver the response.”
Turns out there may be some truth to that Southern adage that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar after all. As The Washington Post notes, Google searches for the governor’s name spiked Tuesday night. Speaking to the Today Show on Wednesday morning, Haley confirmed that she would be open to the idea of running for Vice President.
“I absolutely would sit down and talk with anyone that wanted to talk,” Haley said.