WASHINGTON (TIP): South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who has been mentioned as a possible 2016 vice presidential pick, will deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address.
Haley, the first female and first minority governor in her state’s history, will address the nation on the night of January 12 after Obama’s speech, congressional leaders said on Tuesday.
She surged into the spotlight last year during a bitter debate over the Confederate flag, when she ordered the divisive and controversial banner be taken off state capitol grounds in the wake of a church shooting in Charleston.
Several observers said Haley, who is 43 and in her second term as governor, used the opportunity as a political launch pad, securing her image as the face of the new South and helping her party’s profile in the process.
“Nikki Haley has led an economic turnaround and set a bold agenda for her state, getting things done and becoming one of the most popular governors in America,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in announcing her as the person to deliver the Republican address.
“Governor Haley knows the American Dream and wants to see every American share in it, and we’re pleased that she will be delivering this year’s Republican Address,” added Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Haley is one of two Indian American governors in the United States. The other, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, briefly ran for president before dropping out in November.
“This is a time of great challenges for our country, but also of great opportunities. I intend to speak about both,” Haley said in a statement.
The speech comes in the run up to the highly anticipated Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, the first two state-wide votes in the process to determine the Democratic and Republican nominees for president.