COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Nikki Haley's victory in South Carolina's bruising GOP primary for governor moves the state lawmaker closer to becoming her state's first woman chief executive while assuring her a place on the national political scene.
Her primary victory sets off talk of a possible vice presidential campaign in 2012. As an Indian-American woman from an early primary state, she would bring a combination of diversity and conservatism that many in the GOP have been seeking.
Haley was little known just months ago, but got a crucial boost with early support from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the tea party movement.
"South Carolina just showed the rest of the country what we're made of," Haley said following her victory. "It's a new day in our state, and I am very blessed to be a part of it."
With her victory, Haley moved one step closer to becoming the first female governor in the conservative-leaning state. She also secured her place as a rising female star in the GOP, if not potential 2012 vice presidential candidate in the early primary state. She stands as the front-runner in the race against the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen. The disgraced GOP Gov. Mark Sanford is leaving the post because of term limits.
Haley, 38, brushed aside allegations of marital infidelity and an ethnic slur to come within a percentage point of winning the gubernatorial nod outright on June 8. Haley had 65 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Rep. Gresham Barrett, a four-term congressman who has had to answer for his 2008 vote for the unpopular Wall Street bailout.
In a fitting twist, Haley planned her victory party at the entrance to the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.
Along the way, she weathered rumors of infidelity and questions about her religious and ethnic background.