Gov. Nikki Haley received several standing ovations and a moment in the national spotlight Saturday as she welcomed conservatives to an event in Charleston, sponsored by the conservative political blog RedState, during which Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced his presidential candidacy.
During the half-hour speech, Haley, a first-term governor and Lexington Republican, criticized the formation of a new bipartisan congressional delegation that includes U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Columbia Democrat.
The group is charged with identifying ways to reduce federal spending and making recommendations to Congress.
"That's nothing more than a waste of time," Haley said to an applauding crowd of about 300, as well as dozens of reporters from around the nation.
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"If we can find waste in South Carolina - and it's a conservative state - we could have a field day in Washington."
Haley is referring to South Carolina's budget debate this year, which started with three agencies running deficits but ended with a surplus because of higher-than-expected tax collections and state budget cuts, including cutting payments to physicians who treat Medicaid patients.
Haley also touted her successes as governor and South Carolina's importance as a bastion of conservative thought.
"This is a state that is conservative. This is a state that's becoming more conservative every day," Haley said.
Among her accomplishments, Haley listed pushing through bills to require state lawmakers to cast on-the-record votes, reforming health care by cutting doctors' Medicaid reimbursements and her ongoing fight against the National Labor Relations Board.
The board is alleging aerospace giant Boeing moved to South Carolina to retaliate against union workers at its Washington state site.
"They're trying to be relevant, and they're not," Haley said of unions.
"We are going to fight, and we are going to win, and this will never happen again."
Haley called Perry's decision to announce his candidacy in South Carolina, instead of participating in the Iowa straw poll Saturday like his GOP competitors, "brilliant."
But she gave no clues on who she will endorse in the race.
South Carolina will hold the nation's first-in-the-South primary in February.
"He has a hope for America that is great," Haley said of Perry. "But I think the field is wide open.
"I think it's anybody's game at this point."