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Clemson trustee and alumna announces bid for White House

Matt Mynes // Photo Editor

A young girl holds up a Nikki Haley For President sign during her campaign announcement on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, at the Charleston Visitor Center.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Nikki Haley, Clemson alumna and former governor of South Carolina, formally launched her bid for president with her first campaign event on Wednesday.

Haley shared her vision “to move past the stale ideas and faded names of the past” and move into a newer, stronger and prouder American future. 

She denounced the nation’s current political leadership.

“Now America is falling behind, our future is slipping, our leaders are failing us; and no one embodies that failure more than Joe Biden,” Haley said. 

Pointing to economic crises such as high grocery costs and scarce baby formula as well as issues such as increased crime, government overreach and corporate subsidies, Haley warned that America is “spiraling towards socialism.”

Another key issue Haley identified under the current administration is American self-loathing. 

“Every day, we’re told America is flawed, rotten, and full of hate. Joe and Kamala even say America is racist,” Haley said. “This self-loathing is a virus more dangerous than any pandemic.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she said. “Take it from the first minority female Governor in history: America is not a racist country!”

The potential Republican Party candidate offered her solutions to these and other pressing issues facing America. 

“When I look to the future, I see America strong once more,” Haley said.

Haley’s aspirations for a strong, powerful America include initiatives such as school choice for parents, reduced inflation and government spending, strong police and military forces and term limits for career politicians. 

“Most of all, I see a strong America because I see a proud America. Strong and proud — not weak and woke — that’s the America I see!”

The event brought a large turnout to the Visitor Center in downtown, including introductions by Rep. Ralph Norman, and Cindy Warmbier, whose son Otto Warmbier died in a North Korean prison in 2017.

Haley first announced her intent to run for president in a video message Tuesday. She urged that it was time to dethrone the “socialist left” and that “it’s time for a new generation of leadership.”

Prior to being elected governor of South Carolina in 2010, Haley received a degree in accounting from Clemson in 1994.

During her time as governor, Haley grew South Carolina’s economy immensely, earning it the title of the “Beast of the Southeast.” During this period of prosperity, South Carolina saw a 15-year low unemployment rate, added new jobs in all 46 counties and saw tens of billions of dollars in capital investment, according to Haley.

In 2021, Haley was appointed to a lifetime position on the University’s board of trustees.

It is unclear whether Haley will continue her position on the board during her likely time-consuming run for president. The board meets quarterly with lengthy meetings and documents to review and approve.

“Clemson has a long history of university trustees running for and holding public office,” Joe Galbraith, a University spokesman, said in a statement to The Post and Courier.

Board Chairwoman Kim Wilkerson told The Post and Courier that Haley would be allowed to remain on the board during her campaign but did not clarify what changes would be necessary to accommodate it.

As a competing Republican candidate for president, she will face former President Donald Trump in the party’s primary election. Trump and Haley are no strangers, as she served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in his administration from 2017 to 2018.

Haley is used to being the underdog in her political ambitions. “I’ve been underestimated before,” she said. 

In her first race for office, she ran and won against a 30-year-sitting incumbent to win the Republican primary for South Carolina’s 87th district. Next, when she sought the governor’s office, she came back to win from fourth place. 

“I’ve been shaking up the status quo my entire life. As I set out on this new journey, I will simply say this: May the best woman win,” Haley said.  

The primaries kick off in January 2024, and Haley’s home state of South Carolina is set to vote third in the Republican primary.

For Nikki Haley supporters, as the potential GOP presidential candidate would put it, “it’s a great day in South Carolina.”

An earlier version of this article claimed that Nikki Haley’s bid is the first presidential candidacy by a Clemson alumni. Strom Thurmond was a presidential candidate in 1948 and Jo Jorgensen was a presidential candidate in 2020. The Tiger regrets this error and has since corrected it.

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