Wall Street Journal
By Heather Haddon
January 13, 2016
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has become the latest proxy in the war between the Republican Party’s establishment wing and its presidential front-runner, Donald Trump.
The infighting broke out immediately after Mrs. Haley, responding to the President Barack Obama’s Tuesday State of the Union address, urged her party and others not to follow “the siren call of the angriest voices.”
On CNN Wednesday, she confirmed that she was referring in part to Mr. Trump, who has railed against Mexicans and Muslims.
“We see Republicans who are not always being responsible with their words in terms of extending our tent," said Mrs. Haley, an Indian-American and two-term governor who is considered by some party operatives as a potential vice-presidential choice.
Mr. Trump on Wednesday accused Mrs. Haley of being “weak on illegal immigration,” and sarcastically noted that she had asked him for campaign contributions over the years.
He shunned the prospect of Mrs. Haley as a running mate, based on her immigration stance. “I feel very strongly about illegal immigration. She doesn’t,” Mr. Trump said on Fox News.
For establishment leaders who have watched the rise of Mr. Trump with alarm, Mrs. Haley’s willingness to confront him publicly was cheered.
“When Trump is attacking people on their ethnicity or religion, it’s a horrible thing. It doesn’t reflect mainstream Republican thinking,” said Charlie Black, a former adviser to both Bush campaigns.
Help Make America Awesome, one of the few super PACs that have directly taken on Mr. Trump, latched on to the controversy to solicit contributions online.
Meanwhile, moments after Mrs. Haley finished her remarks, a tweet by conservative commentator Ann Coulter saying that Mr. Trump “should deport Nikki Haley” went viral on the Internet, and soon thereafter radio host Laura Ingraham characterized the remarks as being tone deaf to the party’s base.
Several Haley critics drew parallels between her remarks and the president’s warning in his address against language that scapegoats “fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do.”
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told reporters Wednesday that he had a lot of admiration for Mrs. Haley, even if he didn’t agree with many of her stances as governor.
“I think some of the things she’s done over the course of the last year are remarkable,” Mr. McDonough said during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.
Mrs. Haley’s political capital rose last year after she supported the removal of the Confederate flag from the Columbia, S.C., statehouse and called for calm after a racially motivated church shooting. During her tenure, the 43-year-old fiscal conservative also signed a law cracking down on illegal immigration.
Mrs. Haley, along with New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, have become leaders in the GOP’s effort to make inroads with women and minority voters.
At a news conference in South Carolina Wednesday, Mrs. Haley broadened her critical assessment of the 2016 field beyond Mr. Trump.
“I have disagreements with other presidential candidates. You know, Jeb Bush passed Common Core [educational standards] and Marco Rubio believes in amnesty, which I don’t,” she said. “But I will say, tone matters, message matters, and responsibility matters.”
She was chosen to deliver the Republican response to the president by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, according to an aide to the House Republican. Mrs. Haley wrote the speech on her own, the person said.
Mr. Ryan, who has also criticized Mr. Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S., stood by his choice Wednesday, and his team circulated praise for Mrs. Haley from conservatives such as Erick Erickson and Heritage Action. The Republican National Committee also praised Mrs. Haley’s address.
“Gov. Haley did a great job with her speech, had the pen, and didn’t need much input from us,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.
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