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US Republican Governor's Comments Incite Firestorm — Within Her Party

  • Ken Bredemeier

FILE - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivers her State of the State address to the joint session of the legislature, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., Jan. 21, 2015.

FILE - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivers her State of the State address to the joint session of the legislature, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., Jan. 21, 2015.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley this week called for more civility in the conduct of her party's raucous Republican presidential nomination contest, but her plea so far has only served to inflame tensions among the party's warring factions.

Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, was selected by leading Republican lawmakers in Washington to deliver the party's rebuttal to Democratic President Barack Obama's seventh and final State of the Union address Tuesday.

In part, Obama chided — although not by name — the leading Republican presidential contender, billionaire real estate tycoon Donald Trump, for his calls to keep Muslims from entering the country and to deport 11 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S.

Giving the political opposition speech to a U.S. president's highly publicized State of the Union address is usually a thankless task and quickly forgotten. But the 43-year-old Haley echoed Obama's sentiments about Trump's campaign, which has drawn much of its support from his flamboyant anti-immigrant, anti-Washington rhetoric and pointed taunts at his Republican opponents, most of whom are current or former governors and senators.

Watch some of Gov. Haley's comments following the State of the Union:


Haley, a two-term governor in her mid-Atlantic coastal state, called for a more inclusive Republican party, saying it "must resist the temptation" to "follow the siren call of the angriest voices."

She said the United States ought to welcome "properly vetted legal immigrants regardless of their race or religion."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, joined in selecting Haley for the rebuttal speech and approved her speech in advance. He said "the vision she outlined for our country was important, it was grounded in reality."

GOP divide

But staunch conservatives often at odds with the party's Washington establishment figures quickly denounced Haley's comments, saying they were out of touch with the prevailing sentiments of Republican voters, that the country's foreign policy is weak and the national economy is not advancing fast enough to help middle-class workers.

Outspoken commentator Ann Coulter tweeted, "Trump should deport Nikki Haley." National radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh accused Haley of trying to "drive conservatives out of the party."

Trump said Haley was "very weak" on illegal immigration and hypocritical, noting that in the past she has asked him for major campaign contributions.

Both Republicans and Democrats are set to pick their presidential nominees in July, leading up to November's national election to pick Obama's successor when he leaves office in a year. Obama is winding up eight years in the White House, with the U.S. Constitution limiting the country's presidents to two terms in office.

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