Nikki Haley says she’s open to being the Republican running mate

South Carolina governor: ‘If a candidate wanted to sit down and talk, I would sit down and talk’

COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 9:  South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley receives applause after signing a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state house grounds July 9, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate on the flag was reignited three weeks ago after the mass murder at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in July after signing a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state house grounds. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley says she is open to the idea of being the running mate to the Republican nominee for president.

Speaking on NBC on Wednesday, Haley says she’s willing to have a conversation about running as vice-president once a nominee is selected.

“If a candidate wanted to sit down and talk, I would sit down and talk,” she says.

She also says that in her rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech late Tuesday, she was taking aim at Donald Trump, as well as other members in the Republican party and in the media, when she called on Americans to resist “the siren call of the angriest voices.”

Haley is the U.S.-born daughter of Indian immigrants.

On Nikki Haley’s response to the president’s State of the Union address:

WASHINGTON — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley used the formal Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday to try softening the tough stance toward immigrants embraced by some of the party’s leading presidential candidates, urging Americans to resist “the siren call of the angriest voices.”

Haley said the country is facing the most dangerous security threat since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That was a reference to the Islamic State group, which has taken credit for attacks in Paris and elsewhere and may have inspired last month’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” Haley, mentioned by some as a potential vice-presidential candidate this year, said in her party’s formal response to Obama. “We must resist that temptation.”

Speaking from the governor’s residence for nine minutes, Haley did not mention the Republican presidential race. But the front-runner so far, real estate mogul Donald Trump, has called for deporting millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Two other contenders, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have battled over which of them has the tougher record on the issue.

“Growing up in the rural South, my family didn’t look like our neighbours,” Haley said. She said no one who works hard and follows the laws “should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”

Haley said the U.S. should continue admitting “properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion” _ an apparent reference to calls by Trump to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the country. She also hewed closely to Republican demands in the immigration debate, saying: “That does not mean we just flat out open our borders,” and said the U.S. should refuse entry to refugees “whose intentions cannot be determined.”

The nation’s youngest governor at 43, Haley also seemed to try to smooth some of her party’s more combative edges. She said Republicans “would respect differences in modern families” — perhaps suggesting more tolerance toward same-sex couples — and said it isn’t necessary “to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference.”

Without offering specifics, she said that while Democrats bear much responsibility, Republicans “need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and recognize why our government is broken.”

Haley has gained national prominence for helping to end the display of the Confederate battle flag on Statehouse grounds last year after half a century, a move that followed last June’s slaying of nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The flag was flown by forces supporting the secessionist, pro-slavery Southern states in the American Civil War.

“We removed a symbol that was being used to divide us,” she said Tuesday of the flag’s lowering.

Polls have shown public concerns over terrorism and national security have become a top issue ever since the November attacks that killed 130 people in Paris and the December mass shooting by a radicalized Muslim couple that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. Ever since, Republicans on the presidential campaign trail and in Congress have been emphasizing the issue.

At the same time, many Republicans feel the party must do a better job of appealing to Hispanics and other minority voters if they are to compete effectively in national and many statewide elections.

They’re also eager to win more votes from women, who preferred Obama over his Republican opponents by more than 10 percentage points in his 2008 and 2012 elections and have favoured the Democratic presidential candidate in each election since 1992.

Haley is the third consecutive woman chosen by Republican leaders to deliver their party’s response to Obama.

Haley said the nation’s problems also include an economy that’s not boosted family income, a national debt that’s too high and Obama’s health care law, which Republicans have long asserted has failed.

She said a Republican president would lower taxes, curb spending and debt and strengthen the military.

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