Trump’s main rival: Who is Nikki Haley?

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley's popularity among voters is growing. So, who is Nikki Haley?
who is nikki haley

Former U.S. President Donald Trump remains the favourite to win the Republican nomination going into the 2024 Presidential election.

However, questions over his candidacy are growing amid several ongoing legal challenges.

It could leave room for another contender to run against the Democrat candidate (most likely to be U.S. President Joe Biden).

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley‘s popularity among voters is growing. So, who is she?

Who is Nikki Haley?

Born Nimarata Nikki Randhawa, Haley grew up in South Carolina. In her 2012 autobiography, she wrote “I am the proud daughter of Indian parents who reminded us every day how blessed we are to live in this country”.

After graduating from South Carolina’s Clemson University, she worked as an accountant.

Haley convinced her husband to change his name from Bill to Michael. “You just don’t look like a Bill,” she told him.

They have two children.

Political career

Haley was elected to South Carolina’s House of Representatives after running as a Republican in 2004.

In January 2011 she became the youngest Governor in the U.S. and South Carolina’s first female Governor.

During her six years in the role, Haley pursued an agenda of tax cuts and job-growth, and oversaw the state’s response to Hurricane Matthew which killed 29 people in 2016.

Haley made headlines after her response to the 2015 Charleston massacre of nine Black churchgoers.

The shooter, a confirmed white supremacist, had posed in front of the Confederate flag — a Civil War-era symbol of South Carolina’s pro-slavery history.

Haley called for the flag to be removed from the state’s legislative building. However, she attracted criticism in 2019 when she said the flag had once represented “service, sacrifice, and heritage”.


After he was elected President in 2016, Donald Trump appointed Nikki Haley U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

As ambassador, Haley repeatedly condemned foreign regimes, such as South Sudan and Iran, which she described as “evil”.

Haley received widespread criticism when she withdrew the U.S. from the UN Human Rights Council, which she described as an “ineffective institution”.

She stepped down in 2018 after less than two years in the role.

Trump criticism

Haley has emerged as one of few high-profile Republicans to publicly disagree with former President Trump.

In her 2019 memoir, she said she was “deeply disturbed” by Trump’s comments insisting there were “fine people on both sides” of the 2017 Charlottesville protests, where a white supremacist killed a woman.

More recently, Haley told voters that Trump had been “good at breaking things” while President.

Presidential run

Nikki Haley launched her Presidential campaign in February 2023, urging voters to elect a “badass woman” to the White House.

Her election pledges have included tax cuts for middle-class Americans. She’s also promised Trump-style laws restricting Mexican asylum seekers from entering the U.S.

Her foreign policy stance includes continued funding for Ukraine.

Growing support

With her popularity growing consistently over the past year, Haley is shaping up to become the most likely contender to go head-to-head against Trump for the Republican candidacy.

A major Republican donor group “Americans for Prosperity Action” announced it was backing Haley’s campaign, praising her “positive vision”.

The New York Times reported Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman donated over $US250,000 (approx. $AU372,000) to Haley’s campaign.

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