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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley To Give GOP's State Of The Union Response

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley participates in a panel discussion during the Republican Governors Association annual conference last November in Las Vegas.
Chase Stevens
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley participates in a panel discussion during the Republican Governors Association annual conference last November in Las Vegas.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will deliver the GOP's response to President Obama's State of the Union address next Tuesday, feeding speculation that the Indian-American Republican could be a possible vice presidential pick.

"Nikki Haley has led an economic turnaround and set a bold agenda for her state, getting things done and becoming one of the most popular governors in America," House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. "In a year when the country is crying out for a positive vision and alternative to the status quo, Governor Haley is the exact right choice to deliver the Republican Address to the Nation."

"Governor Haley knows the American Dream and wants to see every American share in it, and we're pleased that she will be delivering this year's Republican Address," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed in the joint statement.

The announcement was a shift in language for Republicans — calling it an "address" instead of the traditional "response" to the Democratic president:

Haley was in the national spotlight last summer after a gunman killed nine African-American parishioners at a Charleston church. In the aftermath, she backed a successful push to take down the Confederate battle flag from in front of the Statehouse.

Her leadership after the Charleston tragedy and in brokering an agreement over the long-controversial flag was hailed by many Republicans. The 43-year-old Haley, who is the country's youngest governor and the Palmetto State's first female chief executive, saw her national political stock rise — along with chatter she could be picked for the 2016 ticket.

But the plum position hasn't always been so kind to other politicians on either side of the aisle who have stepped in to rebut the president's speech.

  • 2007: Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. -- No longer a senator; dropped out of 2016 presidential race after one debate but is mulling over an independent bid.
  • 2008: Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, D-Kan. — Blamed for the botched Obamacare website rollout.
  • 2009: Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La. -- His stilted delivery was compared to 30 Rock's "Kenneth the Page." His star fell considerably; he was off the 2012 presidential and vice presidential lists, never gained steam in the 2016 race and dropped out in November.
  • 2010: Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va. -- Convicted of corruption charges in 2014 and sentenced to two years in prison. He has not served yet amid appeals.
  • 2011: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. -- Lost as part of 2012 presidential ticket, now House speaker.
  • 2012: Gov. Mitch Daniels, R-Ind. -- Passed on a 2012 presidential bid and is now out of politics.
  • 2013: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. -- Lampooned for taking an ill-timed, awkward sip of water in the middle of his address. Currently a key player in the 2016 race, but if he doesn't win the nomination and is not picked as VP (or if Republicans lose the White House), he is not running for his Senate seat and could be out of politics in 2017.
  • 2014: Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash. -- Still in House leadership, but after her speech, her star stalled. She dropped out of the race for House majority leader in 2015.
  • 2015: Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa -- The freshman hosts a presidential forum in her state.
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    Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.