GREENVILLE, S.C. -- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley told NBC News that she started from a “brand new slate” before deciding to endorse Mitt Romney for the 2012 Republican nomination, even as she supported his first presidential bid.
“When I looked at all the candidates, what was so impressive is I’m no longer looking at a candidate that wants to win,” Haley told NBC in a phone interview today. “I’m looking at a leader that’s actually thought about what he’s going to do the first 30 days as president.”
Haley said one of her defining criteria for endorsing this time around was that she didn’t want “anyone that had anything to do with the chaos which is Washington D.C.”
“I didn’t want to support anyone who’s been involved or has any relationships in Washington,” she continued.
Haley denied, however, that she was taking an implicit jab at Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who's forced to defend his relationships with Washington entities like Freddie Mac during his career since leaving COngress on the campaign trail.
“You’re not going to see me criticize any of the candidates. I have great respect for the candidates,” she said. “What I feel good about is I don’t have to bring down any other candidate to make Mitt Romney look good.”
Gingrich is surging with Republican voters here, leading the field in a recent NBC/Marist poll with 42 percent of likely primary voters to Romney’s 23 percent.
Haley also suggested that electability was a big issue in her decision-making process.
“This is the one candidate that President Obama continues to go after time and time again shows me that he knows that’s the candidate that can beat him,” she said.
Haley also pushed back on the notion that Romney isn’t spending enough time in South Carolina, as some top lawmakers, as well as South Carolina Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly recently said.
“I think the fact that Gov. Romney is coming here today, I think the fact that he’s going to be here tomorrow, the fact he’s going on the air on TV shows his commitment to South Carolina and shows he’s going to work hard to earn everybody’s support here in the state,” she said.