Nikki Haley endorses Rubio, Cruz surges to beat Trump

  • Yashwant Raj, Washington
  • Updated: Feb 18, 2016 10:33 IST
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio appears with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley at an event February 17, 2016 in Chapin, South Carolina. Haley endorsed Rubio in the state's upcoming primary. (AFP)

Nikki Haley, America’s only Indian-origin governor, endorsed Marco Rubio’s presidential bid on Wednesday as Ted Cruz surged to the top of the conservative race in a new poll.

Haley’s endorsement assumes importance as South Carolina, the state she leads as a governor, holds a Republican primary coming Saturday that could decide the fate of more than a few of her party candidates.

“If we elect Marco Rubio, every day will be a great day in America,” Haley said at a campaign event, taking off on the state’s signature greeting “It’s a great day in South Carolina”.

“I wanted somebody with fight, I wanted somebody with passion, I wanted somebody who had the conviction to do the right thing, but I wanted somebody humble enough to remember he works for all the people,” Haley said.

“I wanted somebody who could show my parents that the best decision they ever made for their children was coming to America.”

Haley, whose full name is Nimrata “Nikki” Randhawa, is a first generation American born in the United States to Sikh parents from Punjab and continues to be an extremely popular governor. The Republican party picked her to deliver the traditional opposition party response to the President Barack Obama’s state of the union speech this year, widely seen as a sign of her surging equity.

Haley is a great popular as a vice-presidential candidate, and may even land it, but not if Donald Trump wins the nomination — she has been openly critical of him.

Trump remains the party front-runner in the RealClearPolitics national average of polls, but Cruz went past him in a poll by NBC News/Wall Street Journal related Wednesday. Cruz beats Trump 28% to 26% in the new poll, becoming the second Republican to overtake the flashy estate tycoon who has had a lock on the top slot for months now.

Ben Carson, the soft-spoken neurosurgeon and the only African American in the fray on the Republican side, went past Trump briefly in November, but then the front-runner recovered.

Cruz has overtaken Trump at a crucial time in the race, just days ahead of the crucial South Carolina primary, and the Texas senator thought it strategically useful to trumpet it.

“For the first time in many months, there’s a new national front-runner on the Republican side,” Cruz told cheering supporter at a campaign event in South Carolina.

“The sound you’re hearing is the sound of screams coming from Washington, DC,” Cruz said, invoking his campaign message of being an outsider to DC politics.

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