By MEG KINNARD
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Nikki Haley is moving closer to making her presidential campaign official.
Haley, the daughter of immigrants from India, was the first female governor of South Carolina and the country’s first female governor of Indian descent.
On Feb. 1, supporters got an email invitation to a Feb. 15 launch event in Charleston, at which she plans to announce her campaign, according to a person familiar with the plans but not authorized to speak publicly about them.
News of Haley’s plans was first reported by The Post and Courier of Charleston.
Haley, 51, served as South Carolina’s governor for six years before serving as President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations. When she enters the race, Haley will be the first contender to join the contest against her former boss, who is currently the sole Republican seeking his party’s 2024 nomination.
Trump was in South Carolina Saturday for the initial campaign swing of his 2024 campaign, standing alongside Gov. Henry McMaster—who served as Haley’s lieutenant governor—and several GOP members of the state’s delegation, part of his leadership team in the early-voting state.
During the Trump administration, Haley feuded at times with other White House officials while bolstering her own public persona. Her 2018 departure fueled speculation that she would challenge Trump in 2020, or replace Vice President Mike Pence on the ticket, but Haley did neither.
Instead, Haley returned to South Carolina, where she bought a home on Kiawah Island, joined the board of aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. and launched herself on the speaking circuit, reportedly commanding fees as high as $200,000. She penned two books, a step commonly taken by many on the road toward the White House.
After the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, Haley initially cast doubts on Trump’s political future but said she wouldn’t challenge him in 2024.
In 2021, Haley told The Associated Press that she “would not run if President Trump ran,” but she has since shifted course, ramping up activity through her Stand for America nonprofit and political action committee, and endorsing dozens of candidates in the 2022 midterm elections.
Late last year, during a visit to her alma mater, Haley told an audience at Clemson University that she would be “taking the holidays” to consider a run.
Asked recently why she is now considering a run in spite of her 2021 comments, Haley told Fox News “a lot has changed,” referencing, among other things, U.S. economic troubles.
She went on to say she felt she could be part of “new generational change,” an indirect reference to Trump’s advanced age.
In South Carolina on Saturday, Trump told WIS-TV that Haley had called him several days earlier to seek his opinion. Trump pointed out her earlier pledge not to run against him but said he made no attempts to stop her.
“She said she would never run against me because I was the greatest president, but people change their opinions, and they change what’s in their hearts,” Trump said. “So I said, if your heart wants to do it, you have to go do it.”