Five 2016 presidential prospects were supposed to highlight the S.C. Republican Convention on Saturday, but Gov. Nikki Haley grabbed the spotlight to showcase her heated fight against lawmakers in her own party.
Haley asked state party delegates to vote out S.C. legislators if they back a bond bill and a roads funding plan that did not include an income tax cut.
“That red is not as bright as it used to be,” the Lexington Republican said, referring to the party’s color theme.
Haley has held little back in her criticisms of GOP state lawmakers who failed to back her stances. The former state representative was criticized for telling a Realtors group in March that they needed to take a “good shower” after visiting the State House.
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On Saturday, she took the messages that she posts on her Facebook account to an audience of Republican activists gathered in Columbia.
The governor has opposed proposals to issue bonds of up to $500 million and roads funding plans that raise the state gas tax and other vehicle fees without a large, corresponding income-tax cut. She also protested a plan last year by lawmakers to boost their pay.
Haley listed 17 of 105 Republicans in the Legislature who she said have agreed with her on these three issues.
“At a time where presidential candidates will be coming though South Carolina, how can WE hold our head up when all year I have been fighting my own Republicans?” Haley asked. “These are the people that are supposed to be with me. ... Where’s my army?”
House President Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, a York Republican who was not among the GOP lawmakers on Haley’s list of those backing all of her agenda, said Haley chose the best venue to air her grievances against legislators with a convention filled with Republican activists.
“I wish we could find ways to come together to work for the good of the people,” Pope said.
With five White House hopefuls speaking at the S.C. Republican convention on Saturday, Haley’s speech highlighting her willingness to fight within her party could be perceived as an audition for a job in a Republican administration.
She also will get national attention when CBS’ morning show plans to air an interview with the governor later this week.
Haley has said repeatedly that she has no plans to leave Columbia before her term ends in January 2019. She has not endorsed a 2016 presidential candidate, though she has close ties to early front-runners Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Bush addressed the S.C. GOP convention with other four other presidential hopefuls – Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Also Saturday, state Republicans re-elected Matt Moore as party chairman for a two-year term. Moore was appointed chairman in 2013 when Chad Connelly resigned to take a post with the Republican National Committee.
WHAT THE PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS SAID
Sampling of speeches by the five 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls who appeared at the S.C. GOP convention on Saturday in Columbia:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: “Restoring security means we need to be engaging the world in an appropriate way. By the way, to do that, you shouldn’t have any experience in the Obama administration. You shouldn’t be riding shotgun with the guy who pulled us back. So I guess that (Democratic front-runner) Hillary Clinton is not going to be the proper person to bring us back to a stable world. ... She has her fingerprint on all these foreign policy disasters.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz: “We need a president who doesn’t serve as an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists. We need a president who says ISIS is the face of evil. ... The single greatest threat to our national security is the threat of the nation of Iran with nuclear weapons. ... Let me give you the very simplest principle of history: If somebody tells you that they want to kill you, believe them.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham: “I see a country that’s going to come back stronger; a country with a military that can take on anybody anywhere and crush them; a country that understands that Israel is not the problem, Israel is the solution; a country where a poor kid in Baltimore has a school worth going to, finally.” (Graham also announced that he will retire from the Air Force next month after 33 years of active and reserve service.)
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry: “We cannot accept one in 10 Americans either being out of work or unemployed or just giving up hope in finding a job. It’s not acceptable for one in five children in the country to live in a family on food stamps. It’s time to revive the American economy and to cut corporate tax rates to bring those jobs we throw away overseas ... back home, (and) bring prosperity to Main Street, not just Wall Street.”
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum: “We understand we need a vision that’s inclusive of those Americans without college degrees that they have the opportunity to rise. ... You’ve got great jobs here in South Carolina manufacturing. ... Those job that are family jobs. Those are jobs of small-town America so we can create the vibrant society we need. ... But what about putting vocational education back in our high schools to get our kids the training they need? That’s common sense.”