Former governor and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley smiles next to S.C. GOP chairman Drew McKissick after filing to run in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary. (Photos by Win Hammond/Carolina News and Reporter)

Republican presidential hopeful and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday the United States should avoid direct military involvement in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“America should only play a supporting role,” Haley said. “Let Israel do what Israel needs to do. Don’t talk to them about a cease fire. Don’t talk to them about restraint. Don’t talk to them about humanitarian aid.” 

Haley said she knows the region well as a former United Nations ambassador and those critical of Israel’s actions don’t understand how sophisticated the situation in Gaza is.

“I don’t think America needs to be telling Israel what to do,” Haley said. “I think America, whenever they think about telling Israel what to do, they need to look at those images of Oct. 7th and stay quiet.” 

Instead, she thinks it is more important to focus on the issues America is facing at home, such as inflation, improving education, crime and the border.

“Now we look at a country that needs saving,” Haley said. “Our country is hurting.”

Haley spoke on the second floor of the Statehouse as she filed to be on the S.C. presidential primary ballot Feb. 24. 

One prominent political watchdog and author said Haley’s campaign event, by law, shouldn’t have been held at the capitol.

The statute is pretty clear,” John Crangle said. “You’re not supposed to use state property for election purposes.”

Kristi Moore, the Statehouse events coordinator for the S.C. Department of Administration, did not immediately return calls for comment.

Haley touted her accomplishments as governor: lowering taxes and decreasing unemployment.

She also reminiscenced about the challenges she faced as governor, such as the mass shooting at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel Church, a historic flood in Columbia and the fatal police shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston. 

“We proved to everyone that no matter how hard the day was, we were always going to make it a great day in South Carolina,” Haley said. 

State Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Lexington, said he has known since he met Haley 18 years ago that her work ethic would change South Carolina. 

“She’d roll up her sleeves, she’d put on those high heels because she would have them (to) kick the good ol’ boys to get things done and to make a difference,” Ballentine said.

Columbia resident Rhonda Cortes said she supports Haley because she is a woman. 

“She looks to bring everyone up, not everyone down – and that’s boring listening to someone tear other people down,” Cortes said. “That’s the wrong focus. (We need to) bring everybody up, and women are better at that.” 

Donna and Robert Webb supported Trump in 2016 but said his demeanor turns them off.

“I think if it came down to the two of them for the nomination, we would have to go with her,” Robert Webb said.

Haley announced her presidential campaign in February 2023. She picked up steam since then, following strong performances in the Republican presidential debates.

The Haley campaign polls at 8% among Republican voters nationally, trailing former president Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron Desantis.

She is second to Trump in polls among S.C. Republicans, at 18%, however.

Haley is the second Republican from South Carolina to file to be on South Carolina’s ballot. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott filed Oct. 16.

The next Republican debate will be hosted in Miami on Nov. 8 and moderated by MSNBC.

Congressman Ralph Norman, R-S.C., talks about why he supports Haley for president. 

Former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley speaks in the second-floor lobby of the Statehouse in Columbia.

State Republican Sen. Tom Davis cheers for Haley with supporters.


Claire Carter

Claire Carter

Carter is a senior journalism major with a minor in business administration. She has written for the arts and culture section of the student-run Daily Gamecock. Her writing interests include courts and crime and local social media personalities. She enjoys hot yoga, creating art and taking her dog to the lake.

Camdyn Bruce

Camdyn Bruce

Bruce is a mass communications graduate student at the University of South Carolina. He has covered campus news for The Daily Gamecock and freelanced for Columbia Living magazine. He also interned at The Hill in Washington D.C., covering Congress and elections. When he’s not covering the news, he enjoys watching football and cooking.

Win Hammond

Win Hammond

Hammond is an assistant news editor for The Daily Gamecock, USC’s student-run newspaper. This summer, he worked at the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina under Avery Wilks, a former investigative reporter who was the S.C. Press Association’s 2022 journalist of the year. He is earning a master’s degree in mass communications along with a bachelor’s in multi-media journalism.