Gov. Nikki Haley waves on stage during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
By RAJU CHEBIUM, Gannett Washington Bureau
TAMPA, Fla. - In the biggest speech of her career, Gov. Nikki Haley blasted President Barack Obama on Tuesday as an impediment to South Carolina's goals, introduced herself to a national audience and sought to expand the GOP's reach among women, minorities and others.
"Sadly, the hardest part of my job continues to be this federal government, this administration and this president," Haley said to thousands of cheering delegates attending the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, said, "My parents loved it when they came to America. If you worked hard the only things that could stop you were the limits you placed on yourself. Unfortunately, these past few years, you can work hard, try to be as successful as possible and follow the rules. And President Barack Obama will do everything he can to stand in your way."
Haley drew the most applause when she blasted the Obama administration for suing to block South Carolina's voter ID law on grounds that it violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act. A federal court began hearing oral arguments in the case on Tuesday.
Haley also blamed the administration for a complaint the independent National Labor Relations Board filed against Boeing after the company planned to open an assembly plant in North Charleston instead of union-friendly Washington state.
The complaint was resolved in December after Boeing agreed to hire workers in Washington state, prompting the union that had originally complained to the NLRB to drop the matter.
South Carolina Republicans said Haley's prime-time speaking slot on the opening day of the convention shows she's held in high regard by national Republicans.
Haley embodies the new and diverse GOP, said Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of West Columbia, a convention delegate. She became South Carolina's first minority and first female governor in 2010, the same year voters elected the state's first black U.S. House member, Republican Rep. Tim Scott of North Charleston, who spoke Tuesday afternoon.
"I am really pleased that South Carolina is indicative of how we reach out to include everyone," Wilson said on the convention floor before Haley's speech.
Chad Connelly, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party and a delegate, blamed the media for portraying the GOP as predominantly white and male.
"She is here, breaking the media's stereotypical mold of what a Republican looks like," he said.
State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, said Haley was right to showcase the South Carolina economy because she's improved it by shrinking government and attracting more business - a Republican source of pride.
Haley delivered her speech hours after convention delegates officially nominated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the GOP's presidential candidate. Romney will formally accept the nomination on Thursday.
In an interview Tuesday morning with USA TODAY and Gannett, Haley said she hopes her speech helps broaden the GOP's appeal.
"I hope that I appeal to women," she said. "I hope that I appeal to minorities. I hope that I appeal to good Americans that want to see us self-correct."
Haley dismissed speculation that her acceptance of the high-profile speaking role means she's angling for higher office.
"People (at conventions) are too quick to say, 'She should run for national office, she would be great,'" she said. "The reality of it is, when I endorsed Gov. Romney, I said I don't want anything. Sometimes people throw out names ... way too quickly and they don't realize that some of us just want to move at our own pace and some of us like just where we are."
One of Haley's fiercest critics disputed the governor's assertion that Washington has stood in the way of what South Carolina wants to accomplish and said Haley has national ambitions, despite what she says.
Amanda Loveday, executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said Haley, acting for political reasons, turned down federal education stimulus money designed to help the state's struggling public schools. South Carolina's loss was other states' gain, she said.
"She's all about doing whatever helps herself and boosts her celebrity rather than helping the people of South Carolina," Loveday said.
Here is the full text of Governor Haley's speech, as prepared for delivery:
Governor Nikki Haley
August 28, 2012
I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every single day how blessed we were to live in this country.
They loved the fact that only in America, we could be as successful as we wanted to be and nothing would stand in our way. My parents started a business out of the living room of our home and, 30-plus years later, it was a multimillion dollar company.
But there wasn't a single day that was easy and there wasn't a single day my Mom and Dad didn't put everything they had into making that business a success.
So, President Obama, with all due respect, don't tell me that my parents didn't build their business.
Almost forty-five years after my parents first became Americans, I stand before you and them tonight as the proud governor of the state of South Carolina.
We build things in the Palmetto State. We build planes. We build cars.
We have three of the four largest tire producers in the world and are about to become the number one tire-producing state in the country.
And not too long ago, The Wall Street Journal said, "Anyone still thinking the U.S. has lost its manufacturing chops hasn't been to South Carolina." We have so much potential and so much to be proud of.
But like so many states, we have our challenges, whether they be unemployment or education or poverty. And like so many of my fellow governors, I work day in and day out to try and improve the lives of the people of my state.
And, sadly, the hardest part of my job continues to be this federal government, this administration, this president.
As I said, my parents loved that when they came to America, if you worked hard, the only things that could stop you were the limits you placed on yourself. Unfortunately, these past few years, you can work hard, try to be as successful as possible, follow the rules, and President Barack Obama will do everything he can to stand in your way.
South Carolina recently passed one of the most innovative illegal immigration laws in the country. What did this president - who has failed to secure our borders and address this issue in any meaningful way - do? He sued us.
If this President refuses to secure our borders, refuses to protect our citizens from the dangers of illegal immigration, then states have an obligation to take it on ourselves.
We said in South Carolina that if you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed and you have to show a picture ID to set foot on an airplane, then you should have to show a picture ID to protect one of the most valuable, most central, most sacred rights we are blessed with in America - the right to vote.
And what happened? President Obama stopped us.
And now we come to the most unbelievable of them all. In 2009, South Carolina was blessed to welcome a great American company that chose to stay in our country to continue to do business. That company was Boeing.
Boeing started a new line for their 787 Dreamliner, creating 1,000 new jobs in South Carolina, giving our state a shot in the arm when we truly needed it. At the same time, they expanded their job numbers in Washington state by 2,000. Not a single person was hurt by their decision. Not one.
And what did President Obama and his National Labor Relations Board do? They sued this iconic American company. It was shameful. And not worthy of the promise of America.
But we did one of the things we do best in South Carolina - we got loud. We're fighters in South Carolina, and as we fought we watched an amazing thing happen: you fought with us.
And guess what, we won.
A few months ago, I sat on the tarmac at the Boeing facility in North Charleston and watched as a brand new, mac daddy plane rolled onto the runway sporting a "Made With Pride In South Carolina" decal and surrounded by 6,000 nonunion employees, cheering, smiling and so proud of what they had built.
We deserve a president who won't sacrifice American jobs and American workers to pacify the bullying union bosses he counts as political allies.
American businesses deserve a federal government that doesn't stand in their way, not one that tries to chase them overseas.
Slighting American ingenuity and innovation, that's what this president has meant to South Carolina. That's what this president has meant to this governor.
And that's why this governor will not stop fighting until we send him home, back to Chicago, and send Mitt and Ann Romney to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Mitt Romney for several years now. There's so much to appreciate about him.
He fixes things. He's results driven.
He's taken broken companies and made them successful. He took a failing Olympics and made it a source of pride for our country. He went into a Democratic state, cut taxes, brought in jobs and improved education.
Oh, and by the way, he actually balanced his budget.
This is a man at peace with who he is, with the challenges he faces, and with what he intends to accomplish. This is a man who is not just a candidate looking to win an election, but a leader yearning to return our nation to its greatest potential.
And this is a man who has a silver bullet, his greatest asset, by far, the next First Lady of the United States, Ann Romney.
Ann is the perfect combination of strength and grace. She does what so many women in America do - she balances, in an exceptional way.
She raised five amazing boys, battled MS, is a breast cancer survivor, and through it all was a true partner to Mitt at every turn.
Ann Romney makes all women proud by the way she has conducted her life as a strong woman of faith, as a mother, as a wife and as a true patriot. She is an amazing inspiration for me and for so many women across this country.
Not too long ago I travelled to Michigan to campaign for the Romneys. Towards the end of the day, two self-described independent voters came up to me and said, "We like all that we hear about Governor Romney, and although we don't know everything about him, what we do know, without a doubt, is that we deserve better than what we have today."
They are so right. We deserve a president who will turn our economy around.
We deserve a president who will balance our budget.
We deserve a president who will reform and protect our retirement programs for future generations.
We deserve a president who will fight for American companies, not against them. We deserve a president who will strengthen and support our military, not destabilize them.
America deserves better than what we have today. We deserve a President Mitt Romney.
Thank you, God bless you, and may He continue to bless the United States of America.