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Nikki Haley on Newsweek cover

world Updated: Jul 17, 2010 10:11 IST

Highlight Story

Emerging Indian American political star Nikki Haley has made it to the cover of Newsweek with a story on her transformation from "obscure state representative" to front runner in South Carolina governor's race.

The magazine recounts how an "earthy, attractive, articulate" and the Republican Party's "newest star in a fast-changing South," Haley "proceeded to dispatch a US congressman, the lieutenant governor, and the attorney general in the Republican primary and runoff."

"For the November elections, Haley is pitted against Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen. If elected, she'll be South Carolina's first female Governor and the second Indian American Governor after Bobby Jindal of Louisiana," the US newsmagazine noted.

"Now she's the hottest thing in South Carolina politics. And if she wins in November, becoming the state's first female and first non-white Governor, she'll likely rocket to national prominence and secure a spot in the GOP (Republican) firmament," the Newsweek said.

"She brings something new to our party," said Henry McMaster, the attorney general who lost to her in the primary and later endorsed her. "We have a new leader for the conservative movement in this country, right here in South Carolina."

Born Nikki Nimrata Randhawa in a Sikh family, the mother of two who overcame allegations of extramarital affairs and ethnic slurs, Haley shies away from talk of breaking racial and gender barriers.

"She says she's proud of her heritage and of the accomplishments of Indian-Americans - their educational attainment, their income levels, their philanthropy. But that's about as far as she'll go.

"The fact that I happen to be an Indian female, of course that brings a new dynamic. But what I hope it does is cause a conversation in this state where we no longer live by labels, but we live by philosophies."

Noting her transformation after former Alaska governor Sarah Palin endorsed her and the Tea Party movement embraced her, Newsweek says: "Haley is attractive and earthy, with a gleaming smile and a steely resolve."

"While the former Alaska governor often seems tongue-tied and uninformed, Haley comes across as sharp and articulate. She's remarkably poised for someone fairly new to politics. And she's a natural at the art of schmoozing," it said

"Eager to shed their image as the party of old white men, national Republicans are salivating," the magazine suggests.

"The GOP has long struggled with expanding the base of our party," it cites Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) as saying. Haley offers "a big chance for us to bring ethnic minorities into the party."