Monday, November 29, 1999

Republicans split over backing Nikki Haley

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Washington, June 17 (IANS) While national Republicans are busy advancing Indian American lawmaker Nikki Haley's bid for governor of South Carolina, much of the state party establishment seems to be working furiously to torpedo her chances in the June 22 runoff.Gresham Barrett, the Republican congressman 'backed by a high-priced team of veteran consultants, has launched a two-week, take-no-prisoners assault to defeat Haley,' who overcame accusations of marital infidelity to just miss the 50-percent threshold in a four-way June 8 primary, said Politico, the newspaper that focuses on politics.Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who came in a distant fourth in the Republican primary, has endorsed Barrett. So has the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.'And some of her statehouse colleagues, after eight tumultuous years of Governor Mark Sanford, are determined to stop Haley - a Sanford protege - from taking the top job,' said Politico calling it 'an unusual spectacle: a rare instance in which state and national Republican interests are utterly divergent and at odds.'In the June 8 primary, the 38-year-old mother of two secured 49 percent of the vote in the face of accusations of not one, but two, trysts with men heavily involved in state Republican politics.If she wins the November election she would become the state's first female chief executive and second Indian American to become the governor of a US state after Republican Bobby Jindal, who holds the top job in Louisiana.National Republicans - including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and the Republican Governors Association - have pushed hard for Haley, 'pointing to her as a rising star, a potential leader in a party that's long struggled to bring diversity into its ranks,' Politico said.Both Palin and Romney endorsed her during the primary, and Romney will campaign for her again on Friday. The RGA - which claimed on primary election night that voters made a 'clear choice in Nikki Haley' in spite of the looming runoff - has assisted with money and messaging.Prominent national conservative voices have jumped in to defend her, noted the Politico.Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer, a leading social conservative, have condemned Barrett's campaign for advancing stories suggesting Haley is not a true Christian and still attends Sikh services, as do her Indian-American parents.Bauer has even called for Barrett to fire the campaign consultant responsible. But Barrett's having none of it, attacking Haley as 'the Sanford candidate.'Sanford, who cannot run for re-election because of term limits, admitted last year to having an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina. The scandal led to his divorce, but he kept his job.(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

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