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Courting Nikki Haley

Presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, campaigning in South Carolina this week, would both seem like natural allies for that state’s governor, Nikki Haley.

Like Haley, both candidates are outspoken members of their parties -- with Tea Party connections and conservative records.

But while Haley has said she won’t endorse a candidate “anytime soon,” both presidential hopefuls have recently been trumpeting their association with the governor of the first-in-the-South primary state, as well as embracing her pet issues.

And Haley, perhaps seeking to bring more attention to her state’s contest, hasn’t shied away from the attention.

According to The State newspaper, Bachmann was the first to accept Haley’s open invitation to all candidates to stay overnight at the governor’s mansion in Columbia. She spent the night on July 19, while she was in town to sign Sen. Jim DeMint’s “Cut, Cap and Balance” pledge on federal spending.

“I am so impressed with the governor you have put into that office, and I’m extremely proud of her,” Bachmann was quoted as saying.

On Tuesday, as the presidential candidate returned to the state for a four-day swing, she once again played up her relationship with Haley.

“I just barely got off the plane and my phone rang, and it was your wonderful governor, Nikki Haley, calling me,” Bachmann told the audience at a town-hall style meeting in Greenville, adding that the governor was “as gracious as always.”

She said that Haley informed her of “her latest frustration” -- her inability to contact President Obama over the issue of illegal immigration.

“She had to hold a press conference on the issue of illegal immigration, because she was having problems. She needed 24 people from Homeland Security to do something about the immigration problem, and she couldn’t even get anyone -- this is the governor of the state -- couldn’t even get anyone to return her phone call!”

That “latest frustration” Bachmann was referring to was a press conference held more than two months ago on May 27, according to the Charleston Post and Courier. Haley accused the Department of Homeland Security of ignoring her request to access documents created through the E-Verify system that checks a worker’s eligibility, although the state’s two-dozen immigration auditors could already use the system itself.

But according to a press release on the governor’s website, Homeland Security ended up granting South Carolina’s Labor, License and Regulation Department the ability to directly access E-Verify documents on June 22.

“I appreciate Secretary Napolitano’s decision,” Haley had said in a statement.

Bachmann condemned the federal government’s treatment of Haley over the issue. “This is ridiculous. And disrespectful. So if you’re a Republican governor, you can’t expect to get a phone call?” she asked the crowd.

Bachmann also slammed the National Labor Relations Board’s lawsuit against Boeing, which decided to relocate the construction of a large plant to South Carolina, a non-union state, after labor strikes at the company’s union facilities in Washington State. The NLRB claims Boeing was punishing the unions by relocating the plant.

In her first speech on Tuesday in Spartanburg, Bachmann slammed President Obama’s appointees to the NLRB as “anti-job people” -- who “say that great companies like Boeing, willing to start thousands of high-paying jobs in South Carolina, ‘Sorry, can’t go there. They’re a right to work state.’”

But Bachmann isn't the only GOP presidential candidate to check the box by commenting on the Boeing dispute while in the Palmetto State. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in fact, mentioned it in his speech announcing his run for the presidency at the Red State convention in Charleston on Saturday.

“[President Obama] stacked the National Labor Relations Board with anti-business cronies who want to dictate to a private company, Boeing, where they can build a plant. No president, no president should kill jobs in South Carolina, or any other state for that matter, simply because they choose to go to a right-to-work state,” Perry said.

She didn’t comment on his statement about Boeing, but Haley responded well to Perry’s decision to announce his bid in her state.

“I think his timing was brilliant," Haley said after her remarks at the Red State event, according to NBC’s Carrie Dann.

Dann reported that Haley also said she believes Perry will find the state “very welcoming.”

Perry and Haley -- both members of the Republican Governors’ Association (and Perry was its past chairman) -- also wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post together on July 14, touting their signing of Sen. DeMint’s “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan.

“As governors of states whose residents, like all Americans, are desperate for the restoration of fiscal responsibility in Washington, we are proud to have signed the “Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge” amid the debate over once again raising the federal debt ceiling,” they wrote.

Perry and Haley also have an administration official in common –- Eleanor Kitzman, who was, until July 20, the director of South Carolina’s financial oversight board, and was hired by Perry to serve as the insurance commissioner in Texas, her native state.

“Governor Rick Perry and the people of Texas are fortunate,” Haley said in a statement according to MidlandsConnect.com.

And according to the Post and Courier, Haley and Perry will be doing a bit of exchange politicking beginning tomorrow. Haley will be in Dallas, Texas, while Perry heads to South Carolina for fundraisers and campaign events over Friday and Saturday.

Whom Haley will eventually endorse isn't clear. But what is clear is her criteria for an endorsement. According to NBC’s Dann, Haley said, “What I want is a president that understands that I need the federal government to get out of the way so that I can do my job. And I will be endorsing based on that."