Nikki Haley: I wouldn’t accept the vice presidential nomination

As CNN’s Candy Crowley writes today, it’s never too early for the political world to play veepstakes. So, join the game — but don’t bet on Nikki Haley.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley Media Credit

In an ABC “Nightline” interview set to air tomorrow at 11:35 p.m. ET, the South Carolina governor said she would turn down the vice presidential nomination if the eventual GOP nominee were to offer it to her. Her strong statement against the VP nod might help to diffuse some of the suspicion aroused by her early endorsement of Mitt Romney. Perhaps she didn’t endorse him merely to position herself well in the Republican Party. Maybe she really did — and does — think he’d be the best person for the job of president. That’s certainly the tone she struck in the “Nightline” interview:

A Tea Party favorite endorsed by Sarah Palin during her gubernatorial race in 2010, Haley’s endorsement in the Republican primary was a highly coveted one. The South Carolina governor came out early for Mitt Romney, criss-crossing the state with him in the weeks before the state’s January primary.

Despite her stalwart campaigning on his behalf, Haley claims she has no interest in being his running mate. If offered the vice presidential slot, Haley said she would not take it.

“I’d say, ‘Thank you, but no,’” she said. “I made a promise to the people of this state. And I think that promise matters. And I intend to keep it.”

But the governor fell short of delivering a South Carolina win to Romney. Instead the GOP presidential candidate suffered a substantial defeat in the Palmetto state, falling 13 percentage points behind Newt Gingrich.

Haley brushed off Romney’s loss.

“South Carolinians are strong, independently-minded people,” Haley said. “At the end of the day, they make their own decisions. And I respect them for that. And I welcome that. And I told him that from the very beginning.”

Interestingly, Haley sounded more open to the possibility of a 2016 presidential run. She said it’s not something she can imagine right now — but it’s also not something she would rule out. “Life has surprised me constantly,” she explained.

But would the GOP be open to her? Haley’s seemingly premature endorsement of Romney was interpreted by some Tea Partiers as an almost-heretical enrollment in “the establishment,” but she remains an inspiring figure in the Republican Party nevertheless. A low approval rating in South Carolina notwithstanding, she boasts at least one significant gubernatorial success. Under her administration, employers have created 22,000 new jobs in South Carolina. She’s also still a conservative female politician in the Sarah Palin mold — tough, thick-skinned, still feminine. It’s hard to think the governorship of South Carolina is the last important office she’ll hold.

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