Nikki Haley endorsement for Romney: Will it help him in South Carolina?

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a tea party favorite, praised Mitt Romney's business background in endorsing him for president Friday. She plans to campaign with him ahead of the state's Jan. 21 primary.

Alice Keeney/AP/File
In this Aug. 13 file photo, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks in Charleston, S.C. Haley, a tea party favorite, praised Mitt Romney's business background in endorsing him for president Friday.

In a major coup, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has landed the presidential endorsement of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Governor Haley was a tea party favorite in the 2010 elections, and her backing was much sought after – especially given South Carolina’s status as the third contest (Jan. 21) on the GOP nomination calendar.  

In a statement released Friday morning by the Romney campaign, Haley praised Mr. Romney’s background as a businessman.

“He understands exactly how jobs are created,” Haley said. “He is not a creature of Washington, and he knows what it means to make decisions – real decisions – not simply cast a vote.”

Haley endorsed Romney for president in 2008, and Romney campaigned for her when she ran for governor. Generally, the power of endorsements is debatable, but given that Haley plans to make appearances in the state with Romney, her backing could carry some weight.

Currently, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich enjoys a large lead in South Carolina polls, but analysts argue that his support is soft and that South Carolina is often swayed by the outcomes of the first two contests, Iowa and New Hampshire. Those races typically winnow the field and clarify the choice by the time South Carolina voters get their say.

Also in the backs of people’s minds is whether Romney would ask Haley to be his running mate, should he win the nomination. As a young woman of Indian-American heritage, she would add diversity to a Romney-led ticket. She could also help Romney shore up his credibility with conservative tea partyers. But, as with the choice of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as GOP nominee John McCain’s running mate in 2008, Haley would have to answer questions about whether she’s experienced enough to be next in line for the presidency. She turns 40 in January.

Haley was elected governor a year ago, and before that was a state legislator. Before going into politics, she was in business. 

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