Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley formally kicked off her presidential campaign Wednesday at a rally in Charleston, South Carolina.
“I have devoted my life to this fight and I’m just getting started for a strong America and a proud America,” Haley said. “I am running for president of the United States.”
Haley, 51, announced her campaign Tuesday in a video posted online. A former South Carolina state lawmaker who served as governor from 2011 to 2017, she is now the second candidate in the Republican primary and the first since former President Donald Trump announced last November.
During her speech, Haley mentioned issues including inflation, crime and border security, and criticized President Joe Biden.
“America is not past our prime, it’s just that our politicians are past theirs,” she said. “Joe Biden isn’t leading from behind, he’s not leading at all.”
Haley called for term limits for members of Congress and a “mandatory mental competency test for politicians over 75 years old.” Trump is 76 and Biden is 80.
A recent Monmouth University poll found 41% of Republican voters are unfamiliar with Haley or don’t have an opinion of her. She used her speech to introduce herself to voters, speaking about her parents who came to the small town of Bamberg, South Carolina, from India “in search of a better life.”
“Out little town came to love us, but it wasn’t always easy,” she said. “We were the only Indian family. Nobody knew who we were, what we were, or why we were there, but my parents knew. And every day they reminded my brothers and my sister that even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America.”
Haley said she was underestimated when describing her political career. She won against the then-longest-serving state legislator in 2004, and became her state’s first female and Indian-American governor in 2010 following a come-from-behind win.
“I’ve been shaking up the status quo my entire life,” she said.
In a veiled swipe at Trump, Haley said Republicans had lost the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections, but vowed to end the losing streak.
“If you’re tired of losing, put your trust in a new generation,” she said. “If you want to win, not just as a party, but as a country, stand with me.”
Haley walked out to the 1982 song “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, and she was introduced by speakers including Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., who described her as America’s Margaret Thatcher, the first British female prime minister, and Cindy Warmbier, the mother of Otto Warmbier, who died after being released from North Korea when Haley was U.S. ambassador.
“As I set out on this new journey, I will simply say this: may the best woman win,” Haley said.