MYRTLE BEACH , S.C. — Eric Rice said he wants Nikki Haley in the White House because of her toughness.
The Myrtle Beach resident got what he wanted at Haley’s first South Carolina rally since she launched her 2024 presidential campaign last month in Charleston.
For nearly 40 minutes, the former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador went after China, Washington spending, a spirit of “national loathing” and “woke culture” as a raucous crowd of nearly 1,000 cheered her on.
“What you need is a bad-ass Republican woman. We can do this, but we have to do this again, together,” Haley said inside an Horry-Georgetown Technical College conference center. “I’ve never lost a race. I’m not going to start now.”
Haley, 51, led the Palmetto State as governor from 2011 through 2017 when former President Donald Trump tapped her as United Nations ambassador. She kept the role through late 2018.
Her presidential campaign began Feb. 15 in Charleston as she walked on stage to Survivor’s 1982 classic, “Eye of the Tiger.”
While co-writer and guitarist Frankie Sullivan told Billboard Magazine he didn’t want the song associated with Haley’s political aspirations, the tune played again Monday night as she met with supporters. Tom Petty’s “American Girl” played her off.
Haley drew on her U.N. experience in labeling nations, including Cuba, China, Iran and Pakistan, as enemies of the United States.
Pointing to China, she said, “We’re going to hold them accountable for stealing intellectual property. We’re going to hold them accountable for COVID. We’re going to hold them accountable for fentanyl.”
Edith Banagan of Myrtle Beach said Haley’s time at the UN gives her advantages against any other GOP opponent.
“She’s strong minded and has experience in foreign affairs, compared to other candidates,” Banagan said. “And I like the fact that she doesn’t take crap from anyone.”
Hours before she took the stage, state Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson accused Haley of running far to the right in a bid to outflank Trump.
“From calling for cuts to Social Security and Medicare to tying herself at the hip to Donald Trump’s extreme record, Haley’s campaign so far has made it clear that she believes her only path is to out-MAGA her potential opponents,” he said in a statement.
Haley came to Horry County after an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) earlier this month and stops in other early voting states of New Hampshire and Iowa.
The one-time accountant was elected as the first female minority governor in U.S. history when she won in 2011. She said that’s evidence of a nation that “embraces all cultures and rewards hard work,” she said.
“America’s not racist,” Haley said. “America’s blessed, and all our children need to know how blessed we are. They all need to be saying the pledge of allegiance every morning.”
Wearing jeans and a pastel blazer, Haley also took aim at CNN anchor Don Lemon, who drew controversy Feb. 21 when he suggested she was past her prime.
“I’m in my prime,” she said. “Every woman in this room knows what being in their prime is.”