Former South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley announced Tuesday in a video that she will run for president in 2024, becoming the first major rival to challenge former President Donald Trump for the GOP nomination.
“The Washington establishment has failed us over and over and over again. It’s time for a new generation of leadership to rediscover fiscal responsibility, secure our border and strengthen our country, our pride and our purpose,” Haley, who is expected to deliver remarks Wednesday in Charleston at a campaign launch event, said in the video.
Haley served as US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump. The former president, who announced his bid last year, recently appeared to bless her entrance into the race, telling reporters that she had called to tell him she was considering a campaign launch and that he had said, “You should do it.”
Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, opened the video talking about how she felt “different” growing up in Bamberg, South Carolina.
“The railroad tracks divided the town by race. I was the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. Not Black, not White. I was different. But my mom would always say your job is not to focus on the differences but the similarities. And my parents reminded me and my siblings every day how blessed we were to live in America,” Haley said.
If successful in the primary, Haley would be the first woman and the first Asian American nominated by the Republican Party for president.
A former president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, she was first elected to the South Carolina House in 2004. Six years later, she became the first woman elected as governor of the state in 2010 and was the youngest governor in the nation when she took office in 2011. She resigned in the middle of her second term to become Trump’s ambassador to the UN – a role she served in until the end of 2018.
During her video announcement, Haley touted her record as a twice-elected governor of South Carolina and her leadership in the state after nine people were fatally shot at a historically Black church in Charleston in 2015. After the shooting, Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the Statehouse.
She also leaned into her foreign policy experience in her announcement and referenced her time as UN ambassador, saying she has “seen evil.”
“Some look at our past as evidence that America’s founding principles are bad. They say the promise of freedom is just made up. Some think our ideas are not just wrong, but racist and evil. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Haley said. “I have seen evil. In China they commit genocide. In Iran they murder their own people for challenging the government. And when a woman tells you about watching soldiers throw her baby into a fire it puts things into perspective. Even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America.”
“Some people look at America and see vulnerability,” Haley said. “The socialist left sees an opportunity to rewrite history. China and Russia are on the march. They all think we can be bullied, kicked around. You should know this about me: I don’t put up with bullies and when you kick back it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels.”
Haley will likely face stiff competition in this lane from other potential GOP candidates such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who are all said to be weighing 2024 runs and could also appeal to conservative Republicans looking to turn the page from Trump. Some Republican strategists say a big Republican primary field would be advantageous to Trump, who still enjoys significant support among the party base, and could splinter the vote, allowing the former president to walk away with the nomination.
Haley has often attempted to walk a fine line between allying with Trump and distancing herself enough to appeal to his more moderate critics. She left the Trump administration in 2018 on good terms with the then-president – a marked contrast from other former Trump officials who have publicly fallen out with their onetime boss.
Trump on Tuesday weighed in on Haley’s announcement, saying in a statement to CNN, “Even though Nikki Haley said, ‘I would never run against my President, he was a great President, the best President in my lifetime,’ I told her she should follow her heart and do what she wants to do. I wish her luck!”
Trump was inaccurately referencing a statement Haley made in April 2021 when she said she “would not run if President Trump ran,” a sentiment she later walked back as she called for a new generation of leadership.
While Trump said publicly Tuesday that he wished Haley luck, he has privately expressed annoyance that the woman he once tapped to serve as his ambassador to the United Nations would challenge him. But Trump has remained the most anxious about another challenger: DeSantis. In recent weeks, Trump has asked multiple advisers about creating a new disparaging nickname for his potential rival, privately suggesting that he target DeSantis’s weight instead of referring to him as “Ron Desanctimonious.”
As Trump has vented about Haley’s run, some advisers have reminded him how it could benefit him if he faces multiple Republican challenges in the race.
South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, who was endorsed by Haley when Trump supported her Republican opponent, told CNN Tuesday she was also worried about the size of the primary field.
“I have concerns if there are too many people on the ballot by the time it gets to South Carolina that it lessens the chances of anyone else coming out in this thing,” Mace said.
Haley filed to run for president with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s David Wright contributed to this report.