South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley Rallies GOP Women

By: - April 6, 2012 12:00 am

Republican Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s first female governor, defended her party’s take on women’s rights and concerns during an extended publicity blitz for her autobiography “Can’t is Not an Option” that took her Thursday to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.

She attacked the media for fueling a perception that the Republican Party is waging some kind of war against women with bills restricting access to contraception. “I think that the media is actually a little frightened of women,” she said. 

Her remarks came during a luncheon interview with Liz Cheney, conservative Republican spokeswoman and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. She also talked up the book on ABC’s The View on Wednesday and on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report on Tuesday. 

In each of those appearances—and in her memoir— she has highlighted her femininity and status as South Carolina’s first female governor. She noted in each appearance that she wears heels not as “a fashion statement” but as “ammunition” in the cutthroat world of politics. A darling of the tea party, Haley emphasized her friendship with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin at the luncheon and encouraged the women attending to consider running for office.

On The View, Haley told the all-female panel of hosts, “Women don’t care about contraception. They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families.”

Haley’s new celebrity came under fire from South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian who criticized her for spending too much time working the national media circuit and campaigning with Mitt Romney and not enough time governing. “Only 18 months in office and she has already written her biography,” he said. “It used be that only people who accomplished something significant had biographies written, but in the age of Snooki and Kardashian celebrities, it should be no surprise Nikki Haley draws some national curiosity.”

While Haley is clearly proud of her ties to Palin, she ruled out a vice presidential run for herself, or any position in a Romney administration. Despite Haley’s endorsement, Romney lost the South Carolina Republican primary in January in large part because of strong support for Newt Gingrich from the same tea partiers who played a major role in electing her. 

Haley emphasized Romney’s position on states’ rights as she explained her decision to endorse him to the conservative crowd at the Washington gathering. She recounted a conversation in which she grilled Romney on his positions on the issues that are most important to her.

“I said, ‘I need to know that if I pass illegal immigration reform or voter ID or any bill in South Carolina that the federal government is not going to stop the will of the people of South Carolina,’” she said. “And he said, ‘I was a governor of a state.’ He said, ‘You have to be able to govern your state without the federal government getting in the way.’ He said, ‘I will always support those things.’ That really was what got me there.”

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Melissa Maynard

Melissa Maynard oversees the Pew state fiscal health project’s Fiscal 50 online resource, which helps policymakers understand fiscal, economic, and demographic trends affecting their states by tracking tax revenue, reserves, employment rates, Medicaid spending, and other issues important to long-term fiscal health.