Why Nikki Haley Has So Few Friends Left in South Carolina Politics


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The stories pile up one after another, of thanks not offered, allies antagonized, opponents not forgiven — a portrait of a politician who climbed the ladder with speed and skill but failed to ensure that the people who helped her would have her back if she needed them.

Now that politician, Nikki Haley, has returned to her home state of South Carolina in desperate need of support in high places to revive her flagging quest for the presidency.

She is finding little of it.

The man who had been her lieutenant governor, Henry McMaster, signed on with Donald J. Trump long ago. The backbench House member she plucked from a crowded field of South Carolina contenders to put into the United States Senate, Tim Scott, endorsed Mr. Trump just days before the crucial New Hampshire primary, and stood behind him Tuesday night as the former president mocked Ms. Haley’s dress.

The congresswoman whose career was rescued from a Trump-backed challenger in 2022 by a timely Haley endorsement, Nancy Mace, has also sided with Mr. Trump, a man she once said needed to be held to account for the riot of Jan. 6, 2021.

“She was good on economic development but not great on cultivating relationships,” said Chip Felkel, a longtime Republican political consultant and Trump critic said of Ms. Haley. “She forgot who helped her get here.”

In the rough-and-tumble politics of South Carolina, the 12 years that Ms. Haley spent as a state representative, then as the youngest governor in the country, were remarkable. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Ms. Haley repeatedly defied expectations as she took on an entrenched old guard in the Deep South. She edged out much better known Republican politicians running first for the legislature, then for governor, and was resoundingly elected to her second term — a rise so meteoric that her campaign sells T-shirts that read “Underestimate Me, That’ll Be Fun.”

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Why Nikki Haley Has So Few Friends Left in South Carolina Politics

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