My endorsement: Nikki Haley for president
She’s the right woman at the right time. And, at 51, she’s in the right generation. Old men have done more than enough to us the last eight years.
DES MOINES, Iowa – Here’s an idea we are way overdue in acting on: Let’s elect a woman to be president of the United States.
Fortunately, I’m encouraging this at a time when a very good woman is available and running for the office. She is Nikki Haley, 51, a Republican former two-term governor of South Carolina who went on to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for two years.
Iowa Boy Chuck Offenburger is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Haley is the right woman at the right time.
“As a point of personal privilege, we have to raise strong girls,” Haley said early Saturday morning at a campaign event at SkyView Vineyard & Event Venue, just east of Indianola. “Strong girls become strong women, and strong women become strong leaders.” It was the biggest applause line of her 45-minute presentation to a crowd of maybe 200.
Nikki Haley, speaking at a caucus rally on Saturday morning east of Indianola.
My hope – actually my belief – is that a bright, strong woman might be just the leader we need now to help heal the stifling division in this nation and elevate our standing internationally. Especially so, if that bright, strong woman is of a younger generation than the string of old men who’ve led us into so many messes the last eight years.
By the night of the Iowa Caucuses, Monday, Jan. 15, I will change my Greene County voter registration from Democrat to Republican and cast my vote for Nikki Haley at the caucus of my precinct in the town of Jefferson, my legal residence.
And if Haley becomes the Republican Party’s nominee for president, I will continue my enthusiastic support of her through the general election in November – with one caveat. In the unlikely event that 81-year-old President Joe Biden, a Democrat, should decide not to seek re-election, I reserve the right to vote for the Democratic nominee if that person is someone I favor.
I have admired the political and governmental work of Haley since I first became aware of her – when she was running for governor of South Carolina in 2010.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Haley had a discussion about political careers on Friday evening in Des Moines for the organization Run Gen Z, which provides mentoring and support for young Republicans to run for public office. “I’m 1,000 percent for Nikki Haley,” said Sununu, who’s been traveling with her and introducing her across both Iowa and his home state.
I really liked her background, when I learned more about her.
Her father Ajit Singh Randhawa, a college professor, and her mother Raj Kaur Randhawa, a lawyer, immigrated in 1964 from the Punjab region in northern India, first to Canada, then in 1969 to the town of Bamberg, S.C. Her father was a biology professor at historically-Black Voorhees College in nearby Denmark, S.C. Their daughter Nimarata Nikki Randhawa was born Jan. 20, 1972. She became Nikki Haley in 1996 when she married Michael Haley.
Bamberg, she noted, is “a small town of 2,500 people and two stoplights in the very rural southern part of South Carolina.” She gave the crowd Saturday some of her personal story, after half the people there raised their hands when she asked how people were seeing her for the first time. “It was the kind of place where if you were doing something wrong, your mother knew it before you got home.”
Her mother opened a women’s clothing store, and the family later added an apparel store for men. “I started doing books for the family businesses when I was 13,” Haley continued. “It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized that was child labor.
“I’m not an Ivy Leaguer. I went to a public university, Clemson. And go Tigers!”
She drops in little asides like that easily when she speaks. Twice Saturday morning, both times after someone in the audience sneezed, she immediately said “Bless you!” and continued right on with her remarks.
Advising young Republicans (and some of their older mentors) in Des Moines.
In an appearance Friday night at the Embassy Club, atop the Ruan Center in downtown Des Moines, Haley told the “Run Gen Z” group that mentors young Republicans to run for public office, that her own political career did not start early in her life.
“I wasn’t in student politics in school, and I wasn’t in the Young Republicans,” she said. “I wasn’t that kid. I was an accountant.” After college, she soon rejoined the family businesses, which had moved to Lexington, a suburb of the state capital Columbia.
“When I was doing our books, I’d often complained that even though we were taking in a lot of money, we had government taking so much of it back,” she said. “My mother got tired of hearing that and said, ‘Quit complaining! Do something about it!’ ”
She was already involved in several civic organizations and business associations. She started checking out Republican Party politics.
Everyone she was asking for advice on what positions she might want to pursue, “every single one closed a door for me at first,” she said. “They’d say ‘you can’t do it with small children,’ and ‘you can’t do it with no name recognition,’ and ‘you can’t do it without raising a lot of money.’ ”
But she learned about a women’s forum that was being held at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. Among the featured speakers was former First Lady of the U.S. Hillary Rodham Clinton, after the White House years. Clinton was encouraging the women to consider running for public office, no matter what party they were in or what the odds against them were.
“Hillary said that day, ‘For every reason they give you that you can’t run, that’s a reason you should run’,” Haley said.
She took it to heart.
In 2004, she filed for a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives serving the Lexington area, after the 30-year incumbent indicated he was not seeking re-election. After she’d filed her papers, that incumbent changed his mind. And a third candidate filed, too. Haley eventually won in a run-off election – and she’s won every election she’s been in since then.
“Nikki was a really good governor,” former Iowa Governor and U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad told me Friday night. “She was very strong in economic development, and that’s always been an interest of mine, as you know.”
He also described her as a “good partner” from 2017-2018, during his time as ambassador to China and she was the ambassador to the United Nations.
To be clear, Branstad has not endorsed Haley – or anyone else – for president, yet.
Arriving at the Saturday morning event east of Indianola.
She’s much more conservative than I am, of course.
But I highly value her experience as a governor. Those who’ve been successful governors know how to rally people from both parties for the public good.
I like her record for leading economic growth.
Her experience and success in international relations is impressive.
I like her insistence on the importance of education at all levels.
From her family experience, I think she’s got an eye and heart for the underdog and newcomer — if he or she arrived here legally.
And I share her views opposing abortion. Whatever your views are on that contentious issue, you should hear her out, as her position is sometimes described as being “moderate.” She has said that after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, she thinks it is unlikely that there will be a federal position setting abortion policy for the nation, that instead, she thinks individual states should decide their own policies.
In the debate among Republican president candidates in Miami in November, NBC News reported her saying, “As much as I’m pro-life, I don’t judge anyone for being pro-choice, and I don’t want them to judge me for being pro-life. So when we’re looking at this, there’re some states that are going more on the pro-life side. I welcome that. There’re some states that are going more on the pro-choice side. I wish that wasn’t the case, but the people decided.”
Then she added, a bit later, “Let’s focus on how to save as many babies as we can, and support as many moms as we can.”
She is a mom of grown children. Daughter Rena, newly married, works in a pediatric hospital and her husband is a fifth grade teacher. Her son Nalin is a senior in college. Her husband Michael, by the way, is an officer in the South Carolina National Guard, and he is currently midway through a year-long deployment to the Horn of Africa, where he and other Guard personnel are working with regular military in providing security and human services in the troubled countries in that region – Somalia, Yemen, Kenya and the Sudans.
The Haleys were married in both Sikh and Methodist church ceremonies, their biographies note. They are now United Methodist members, but Nikki still attends Sikh services occasionally.
Waving to the crowd during an appearance at the Iowa State Fair last summer.
Can Nikki Haley possibly win the Republican nomination and the presidency?
Polls of Iowa Republicans show former President Donald Trump has a commanding lead here, and that Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are 20 or more points down. But Haley leads in polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina, where primaries will be held in the weeks right after the Iowa Caucuses.
In a public forum on the Iowa Caucuses presented Nov. 15 by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program at Drake University, three of Iowa’s best known political journalists – Kay Henderson, Dave Price and Brianne Pfannenstiel – all doubted either Haley or DeSantis could catch Trump in Iowa. However, two others on that panel – David Yepsen and Douglas Burns – had a different view.
Yepsen noted that the voting at Republican caucuses is by secret ballot, and polls show “about three-fourths of Iowans were for somebody other than Trump. Iowans are basically not MAGA Republicans. They’re more like Bob Ray Republicans. We had one MAGA representative in Congress – Steve King – and the Republicans got rid of him. So, in the secrecy of that ballot, I think the movement is going to Nikki Haley.
“Nikki Haley is very different,” he continued. “There’s competence. She’s been a governor, so she’s run something. She’s moderate on abortion. Trump’s ahead, but will he win big enough in Iowa? His trend lines are up there, but they’re flattening.”
And then Yepsen concluded, “If Nikki Haley gets the nomination, I wouldn’t want to be in Joe Biden’s position. I think she’d run the table.”
Burns echoed that thought.
“I’d say that in the small, rural caucuses I cover” around his town of Carroll in western Iowa, “Nikki Haley plays very well. She’s a lot like Senator (Joni) Ernst and Governor (Kim) Reynolds. I can see Haley taking it all.”
So can I.
Two weeks after that program, Charlie Cook, perhaps the most respected non-partisan political analyst in the nation, spoke at Drake. In summery, he said that if the general election winds up being Trump vs. Biden, then Biden will win. But if it’s any other Republican nominee vs. Biden, then that “other Republican nominee” will win.
Haley told both crowds this weekend that will be her.
Former President Trump? Let’s start with this – he’s 77. I can’t believe Iowans will give him victory here, despite what the polls say. And I can’t believe Americans will give him the presidency again. If they do, I think our democracy is in danger. As Haley herself said Saturday morning, she supported Trump in 2016 and worked two years for him at the United Nations. But, she added, “rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him. Chaos follows him! You don’t defeat Democratic chaos with Republican chaos.”
Florida Governor DeSantis? He’s 45, but he sure seems like an old 45, doesn’t he? He is often described as “Trump light,” and Trump might be right on one thing he said about DeSantis: “He has no personality!” His campaign has its focus almost totally on Iowa, and may well collapse if he doesn’t do better than expected here. Yes, Iowa Governor Reynolds has endorsed him, and yes her endorsement is certainly worth more than mine is. But I think she got this one wrong.
This looks and feels like it’s Nikki Haley’s time.
You can comment on this column below or write the columnist directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A NOTE TO MY READERS: I write my “Iowa Boy Chuck Offenburger” columns here as a member of the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative, which is led by Julie Gammack, of Des Moines. In less than two years, our group has grown to 48 professional journalists. We are spread across Iowa and write on a wide variety of topics, but all share a deep interest in life in this state. You can become free subscribers on Substack and read us without cost, but if you enjoy our work, I encourage you to become a paid subscriber at whatever level you’re comfortable.
Here’s our line-up:
Nicole Baart: This Stays Here, Sioux Center
Ray Young Bear: From Red Earth Drive, Meskwaki Settlement
Laura Belin: Iowa Politics with Laura Belin, Windsor Heights
Tory Brecht: Brecht’s Beat, Quad Cities
Doug Burns: The Iowa Mercury, Carroll
Dave Busiek: Dave Busiek on Media, Des Moines
Iowa Writers’ Collaborative, Roundup
Steph Copley: It Was Never a Dress, Johnston
Art Cullen: Art Cullen’s Notebook, Storm Lake
Suzanna de Baca: Dispatches from the Heartland, Huxley
Debra Engle: A Whole New World, Madison County
Arnold Garson: Second Thoughts, Okoboji and Sioux Falls
Julie Gammack: Julie Gammack’s Iowa Potluck, Des Moines and Okoboji
Joe Geha: Fern and Joe, Ames
Jody Gifford: Benign Inspiration, West Des Moines
Rob Gray: Rob Gray’s Area, Ankeny
Nik Heftman: The Seven Times, Los Angeles and Iowa
Beth Hoffman: In the Dirt, Lovilia
Chris Jones, Chris’s Substack, Des Moines
Pat Kinney: View from Cedar Valley, Waterloo
Fern Kupfer: Fern and Joe, Ames
Robert Leonard: Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture, Bussey
Letters from Iowans, Iowa
Darcy Maulsby: Keepin’ It Rural, Calhoun County
Tar Macias: Hola Iowa, Iowa
Alison McGaughey, The Inquisitive Quad Citizen, Quad Cities
Kurt Meyer: Showing Up, St. Ansgar
Vicki Minor, Relatively Minor, Winterset
Wini Moranville: Wini’s Food Stories, Des Moines
Jeff Morrison: Between Two Rivers, Cedar Rapids
Kyle Munson: Kyle Munson’s Main Street, Des Moines
Jane Nguyen: The Asian Iowan, West Des Moines
John Naughton: My Life, in Color, Des Moines
Chuck Offenburger: Iowa Boy Chuck Offenburger, Jefferson and Des Moines
Barry Piatt: Piatt on Politics Behind the Curtain, Washington, D.C.
Dave Price: Dave Price’s Perspective, Des Moines
Macey Shofroth: The Midwest Creative, Norwalk
Larry Stone: Listening to the Land, Elkader
Mary Swander: Mary Swander’s Buggy Land, Kalona
Mary Swander: Mary Swander’s Emerging Voices, Kalona
Cheryl Tevis: Unfinished Business, Boone County
Ed Tibbetts: Along the Mississippi, Davenport
Kali White VanBaale, 988: Mental Healthcare in Iowa, Bondurant
Teresa Zilk: Talking Good, Des Moines
The Iowa Writers Collaborative is also proud to ally with Iowa Capital Dispatch.
Iowa Boy Chuck Offenburger is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.