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Nikki Haley makes her White House run official with Charleston event


Nikki Haley officially kicked off her presidential run for 2024. The former South Carolina governor is just the second Republican to launch a bid for the nomination. She painted a picture of a country full of opportunity for anyone who seizes it.


NIKKI HALEY: Take it from me, the first minority female governor in history, America is not a racist country.

SHAPIRO: Well, NPR's Sarah McCammon was at that rally this morning and joins us from Charleston. Hey, Sarah.


SHAPIRO: Tell us more about Haley's pitch for the White House. What did she say?

MCCAMMON: Well, as we sort of heard alluded to there, she talked about growing up in small-town South Carolina, as she said, a brown girl in a place where the divisions were between Black and white. She said it wasn't always easy, but she said her immigrant parents felt blessed to live in America. And she pushed back against what she described as dangerous self-loathing that she says has taken root under President Biden.


HALEY: It's in the classroom, the boardroom and the backrooms of government. Every day, we're told America is flawed, rotten and full of hate. Joe and Kamala even say America's racist. Nothing could be further from the truth.

MCCAMMON: Now, to be clear, Biden said explicitly in 2021 that he does not believe that the American people are racist but that Black Americans have been left behind, and the country needs to address that. Haley's message seemed to resonate, though, with the mostly white crowd here in Charleston. So while she's clearly trying to set a new tone in terms of policy, a lot of what she's calling for, like increase to border security, is very much in line with former President Trump.

SHAPIRO: And she is the second major Republican to announce a 2024 bid after Trump, who is also her former boss. Did she talk about the former president at all?

MCCAMMON: Only in passing. You know, she referenced her time as United Nations ambassador in his administration. But she did talk about the need for a new generation of leaders to move past what she called division and distractions.


HALEY: America is not past our prime. It's just that our politicians are past theirs.


MCCAMMON: And that, Ari, was one of her biggest applause lines. You know, Haley is 51. That's a generation younger than former President Trump at 76 or President Biden at 80.

SHAPIRO: What are you hearing from voters there in South Carolina? Is Haley what they're looking for in 2024?

MCCAMMON: Something I heard over and over again today is that it is time for new leadership in the Republican Party. Sydney Long is a 20-year-old student at the College of Charleston.

SYDNEY LONG: There needs to be a new generation, whether it's Nikki Haley or someone else. We've got to have someone who's younger, who knows what's going on, who's more in touch.

MCCAMMON: And I heard a lot of that. But like most of the Republicans I talked to today, she said she would vote for Trump if he ultimately becomes the party's nominee.

SHAPIRO: OK. Where does the race go from here, both for Nikki Haley and more broadly?

MCCAMMON: Right. Well, she's scheduled trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, which, of course, like South Carolina, are key early voting states. Another South Carolinian often talked about as a likely contender, Senator Tim Scott, is holding an event here in Charleston tomorrow evening before going to Iowa himself. And former Vice President Mike Pence is in Iowa today. The question, though, for Republicans who want someone other than Trump is if there's a big field like there was back in 2016, will they coalesce around someone who can gather enough critical mass to keep Trump from winning the nomination again?

SHAPIRO: That's NPR national correspondent Sarah McCammon reporting from Charleston, S.C. Thanks a lot.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.