Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley held an event at the South Carolina Statehouse on Monday to officially file for the South Carolina Republican presidential primary in February.
Haley is currently polling second in South Carolina, Iowa and New Hampshire — the first states to hold Republican primaries — behind former President Donald Trump.
The event marked a return to the state for Haley, who held her first elected office as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives for three terms from 2005 to 2011 and served as governor of the state from 2011 to 2017.
Haley was introduced at the Statehouse by former colleagues from her time in office, including state Rep. Nathan Ballentine (R-Lexington), state Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) and U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC 5).
Ballentine said that he knew Haley was a hard worker when he met her 18 years ago and that Trump felt the same when he made her the United States Ambassador to the United Nations in 2017.
“I knew then and there the hard work ethic she had, how she would see a problem, how she would fix it. She'd roll up her sleeves,” Ballentine said. “She'd put on those high heels because she would have to kick the good ol’ boys to get things done and to make a difference, and that's what she did for our state.”
After thanking Ballentine, Davis and Norman, Haley talked about her successes during her time in South Carolina. She said that the unemployment rate dropped from 11% to 4%and that South Carolina now has the lowest recidivism rate in the nation, following reforms passed while she was governor that dropped the rate of repeat offenses from convicted criminals.
Haley also said Israel should lead the strategy efforts in the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, while the United States should focus on Iran, Russia and China, which is the top threat to national security, according to Haley.
“I've been very clear that America should only play a supporting role. Let Israel do what Israel needs to do,” Haley said. “Don't talk to them about a ceasefire. Don't talk to them about restraint. Don't talk to them about humanitarian aid, and don't talk to them about whether there's internet connection.”
Trump remains the front-runner for the Republican nomination, leading Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by 27 points in Iowa, according to the Oct. 30 poll from the Des Moines Register, NBC News and Mediacom. Iowa residents will be the first to cast a vote in the 2024 race with the Iowa Caucuses on Jan. 15.
Haley said she could beat Trump the same way she has defeated everyone else who has ever run against her.
“I've always been the underdog. I enjoy that. It's what makes me scrappy. But no one's going to outwork me in this race. No one's going to outsmart me,” Haley said. “I'm now in second place in Iowa. We are now second place in New Hampshire. We are now second place in South Carolina. I've got one more fellow I've got to catch up to, and I am determined to.”
South Carolina's junior U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who Haley appointed to the position in 2013, is also competing for the Republican nomination in 2024. Scott criticized Haley during the last Republican primary debate on Sept. 27 about her spending as U.N. ambassador and support for raising the gas tax.
“As far as I'm concerned, I'm not focused on him or any other candidate," Haley said. "I'm focused on saving our country, and that's what I'll continue to do."