When the Republican Party sought out popular, two-term governor Nikki Haley to deliver its rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, everyone expected a series of forceful jabs at the Democratic president’s time in the office.
However, in a surprising turn of events, the Republican’s most memorable hits from the widely praised rebuttal landed squarely on party’s own presidential frontrunner Donald Trump — a fact that many conservatives did not fail to notice.
“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true," said Haley. “Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.”
Imploring conservatives to tone down their divisive rhetoric, she also decried “noise” in the Republican presidential campaign that is not only obscuring the party’s message but also threatening its relations with moderates and independent voters.
“While Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone,” she said. “There is more than enough blame to go around.”
In an apparent attempt to undo some of the damage done by the wave of anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric popularized by the real estate mogul, Haley emphasized her family’s immigrant origins and cautioned against demonizing people who yearn to enter the U.S. for a better life.
“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory,” the Indian-American Republican added. "During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”
South Carolina’s first female, non-white governor is also being considered a potential vice-presidential candidate for the 2016 election. She gained national praise in July 2015 after calling for the removal of a Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse.
“We as Republicans need to own that truth,” she explained. “We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership, we need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken, and then we need to fix it.”
Although she did say that America should not let in illegal immigrants and never mentioned Trump’s name, her criticism still irked many conservatives.
The country is lit up w/ a populist fever & the GOP responds by digging in, criticizing the GOP candidates dominating polls?! NOT SMART.— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) January 13, 2016
Everything wrong with GOP #SOTU response in 4 words: Nikki Haley tells Americans tired of being ignored to "turn down the volume."— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) January 13, 2016
Trump should deport Nikki Haley.— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 13, 2016
Nikki Haley: "No one who is willing to work hard should ever be turned away." That's the definition of open borders.— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 13, 2016
Nikki Haley says "welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of religion." Translation: let in all the Muslims.— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) January 13, 2016
I have no dog GOP nomination fight, but do say this: Both Obama & Haley attacked @realDonaldTrump. If you're being attacked, you're winning.— Trey Radel (@treyradel) January 13, 2016
Nikki Haley is part of the secret Trump turnout machine. Another disastrous fumble from the Keystone GOP Establishment.— John Nolte (@NolteNC) January 13, 2016