As she tried to secure the Republican nomination for governor last year, then-state Sen. Nikki Haley got a big boost when Sarah Palin began campaigning for her. But now that she’s governor South Carolina, a crucial primary state for 2012 Republican presidential candidates, Haley wants everyone to know that her endorsement is still up for grabs.
“I have not in any way endorsed, plan on endorsing at this point in time at all. I want all the candidates to come to South Carolina,” Haley told ABC when asked if she would return the favor and endorse Palin. “There’s no one that I feel like I owe at this time” but “when right time comes, I will endorse.”
Both Haley and Republican South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint will be heavily sought after endorsements when the Republican primary contest gets to South Carolina next year. The Palmetto State’s primary is traditionally the third contest of the season, following the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. No Republican has secured the GOP presidential nomination for president without winning the South Carolina primary since its inception in 1980.
According to a recent poll, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is the early favorite to win the South Carolina primary so long as DeMint decides not to run. Huckabee, who finished in second place behind Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008, was the choice of 26 percent of respondents in the poll, which excluded DeMint. He was followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was chosen by 20 percent of Republican voters, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who attracted 18 percent support.