Nikki Haley on Why She Endorsed Mitt Romney

South Carolina’s governor on the pugilistic politics of the Palmetto State, being courted by the Republican field, and why she chose to support Mitt Romney

I did not want [to endorse] anyone who had anything to do with the chaos that is Washington, D.C. It’s toxic: The relationships, the voting, the money that goes back and forth. The hardest part about my job has been the federal government. Everything I try to do, the Obama Administration has tried to stop, whether it’s trying to stop production with our Boeing plant or being sued by the Justice Dept. when we passed an illegal immigration bill.

As I went into this election, I didn’t feel I owed anyone anything. Sarah Palin had been very helpful. Rick Santorum had been helpful. Rick Perry had been helpful. Mitt Romney had been helpful. No one had asked for anything in return, so I felt I had a very clean slate. I met with all of them but Ron Paul. I would have gone to see him. He never called to ask for a meeting, so it just never happened.

I first met Mitt Romney in 2007, and had decided he was the probusiness candidate I wanted to see in office. He knew what it was like to deal with cash flows and profit margins and overhead. I grew up in a family business where I started doing the books for them when I was 13. I had my first corporate audit at 15.

In the 2008 election, you could just tell Mitt Romney was passionate about winning. There’s a calmness and a leadership to him now that I didn’t see in 2008. It’s a huge difference, and I’ve told him that. He knows that if this is meant to be, it will happen. I’ve told him that as he comes into South Carolina, he needs to plan on working very hard, that people here want to see you earn your vote. It’s not so much the attacks as how you handle them that matters in this state.

Is it easy being under the spotlight? No. But I remind myself every day that it’s not what we say, it’s what we do. I have two children. I tell them that I’ve got 5 million bosses and my job is to make these people’s lives better and that they will remember me for it. As the daughter of Indian parents, I was reminded every day how blessed we were. I also have what I was taught through the Indian traditions of work ethics and giving back. People don’t care that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. In South Carolina, we have no cultural issues. And the reason I know that is because they elected a 38-year-old Indian American woman as governor. —As told to Diane Brady

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