Nikki Haley is entering the GOP’s first-in-the-nation nominating contest with the wind at her back but still facing long odds to overcome the front-runner, her old boss, Donald Trump.
“Monday matters. Your voice matters. I trust you,” said Haley to voters last week.
The first woman and first person of color elected governor of South Carolina is looking to make history again as she appeals to Iowa voters in the final stretch.
The issue of race is a defining part of Haley’s political career. She grabbed national headlines in 2015 over her push to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol after a racist mass shooting in Charleston.
Haley later joined the Trump administration and gained experience on the global stage, serving as an ambassador to the United Nations.
Considered a pragmatist, Haley is the only woman in the Republican field and has picked up momentum after receiving praise for her performance in debates.
Haley is one of two candidates of Indian descent.
Her heritage drew the attention of former President Trump, who shared a false “birther” conspiracy to attack her.
Like Trump’s other GOP rivals, Haley has walked a fine line, trying to differentiate herself from the front-runner while not upsetting his loyal base.
On two big issues, she’s in favor of ongoing U.S. support for Ukraine and has called a national ban on abortion "unrealistic."
Her campaign has not been without stumbles, like when she was criticized for not saying slavery was the cause of the Civil War when asked about it by a voter in a town hall.
"Well, don't come with an easy question, right? Yeah, I mean, I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was going to run — the freedoms and what people could and couldn't do," said Haley.
A strong second-place finish in Iowa could give her a jolt as she heads into more favorable territory in New Hampshire, where a recent poll showed she’s within striking distance of Trump, whose lead in the race has been otherwise unshakable despite his many legal woes.
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