Is Nikki Haley Hitching Her Wagon to Lone Star Ted Cruz?
Policy + Politics

Is Nikki Haley Hitching Her Wagon to Lone Star Ted Cruz?

© Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night was widely seen as a repudiation of the generally anti-immigrant message being peddled by current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. But in interviews Wednesday, the woman seen as a strong contender for a Republican vice presidential nomination wasn’t shy about taking some swipes at other top GOP contenders.

There was, however, one notable exception.

Related: Trump Takes on Nikki Haley as Republicans Battle for Control

Haley, the daughter of immigrants from India, conceded Wednesday that much of what she said Tuesday night was directed at Trump. She criticized the “angry” voices in the Republican Party that were creating an unwelcoming atmosphere for the very voters that the party needs to attract in order to expand its base.

On Wednesday, Haley urged Trump – laughably to anybody who has been paying attention to the campaign – not to overreact to her comments.

“Just because you disagree with somebody doesn't mean you're not a friend," Haley told reporters. "When I say it about my other friends that are running for president, they don't throw stones.”

“This is just something that we learned in South Carolina that I'm passing along,” said Haley. “Take it if you want, don't take it if you don't.”

Related: Obama Takes on Trump and the Politics of Fear in Final State of the Union

Trump, of course, did take it personally, blasting Haley on Twitter for accepting campaign donations from him in the past and calling her “weak” on immigration policy.

But Haley didn’t stop at criticizing Trump.

“You know, I have disagreements with other presidential candidates,” she said. “You know, Jeb Bush passed Common Core, and Marco Rubio believes in amnesty, which I don’t. There’s lots of things.”

Notably, Haley balked when she was asked if she thought Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, currently Trump’s closest competitor, was also part of the GOP’s problem with tone.

Related: Obama Uses State of the Union to Defend His ISIS Strategy

Cruz, like Trump, is running as an outsider candidate, despite his status as a sitting senator. And he can back that up by pointing out that he is largely despised by most of the Republican establishment in Washington for his confrontational – and many say self-aggrandizing – tactics.

When she was asked if Cruz was part of the GOP’s problem with “tone,” she said, “You know, I haven’t heard Ted say anything in terms of the religion. If he did, I would say something about that. But I will say, tone matters, message matters, and responsibility matters.”

Cruz, it should be pointed out, is one of the candidates who have affirmatively called for religious tests for refugees entering the United States, something Haley could hardly have missed if she so much as picks up a newspaper on a regular basis.