Nikki Haley: Ronald Reagan in a skirt?

With a memoir in the works, it's become increasingly clear that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has Sarah Palin-sized national ambitions, writes columnist Chris Haire of the Charleston City Paper. And he says he can’t stop writing about Haley, the formidable and elegant new Tea Party governor of South Carolina.

She brings a very distinctive character and a new vision to the South. Some of the Tea Party elements moving up to the 2012 primary season have a vengeance quality — Bachmann and Ron Paul — which accentuates the dark side of the movement. But Haley was a Tea Party figure there at the beginning and can bring in the positive elements of state responsibility and sovereignty without the faux-revolutionary jargon of Beck and Bachmann.

Unless more enter, Jon Huntsman Jr. looks very good in this upcoming race and Haley might be an appealing VP choice for him. A Huntsman/Haley ticket could bring an antidote to the violent torpedo of mediocrity currently afflicting American politics and culture. It would make for a vital, young and imaginative ticket.

“As a candidate, the Republican lawmaker ran against ‘good-old-boy’ networks,” David Mildenberg writes in a recent Bloomberg report. She pledged to attack what Tim Pearson, a top campaign aide, referred to then as a “taxpayer-financed fraternity party” in Columbia, the capital.

“Likening Haley’s communications skills to ‘Ronald Reagan in a skirt,’ Representative Ralph Norman, a Rock Hill Republican, said the governor doesn’t owe anybody because when she started her campaign, nobody thought she could win.’ ”

But Mitt Romney shows active imagination as well and might be thinking of Haley himself as his VP. He was quick to come to her aid in her recent governor’s race and he will want to include some Tea Party accommodation in his campaign. And my observation when he was governor of Massachusetts up here is that although he may not look it, in that squared-away business suit, he can be the rare politician who notices and responds to useful new ideas and abstractions where others get blinded by the tradition and miss them in the passing.

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