Here are the people and groups that are mentioned in comparison to Nikki Haley in a new Washington Post profile of the South Carolina governor: She dresses more like a Real Housewife than a church lady, she “uses firm tones” like a Rudy Giuliani or a Chris Christie, she ignores haters like Sarah Palin. That none of these match-ups feels quite right (especially the Real Housewives quip—I have seen Real Housewives and they do not favor “suits that stop just below the elbow and just above the knee,” like the Gov does), but it does speak to Haley’s incredibly savvy image control. She’s very good at deflecting any attempt to categorize her. She shrugs off upset about South Carolina’s ongoing love affair with the confederate flag by waving her own multicultral bona fides (“You are looking at a state that just elected a 38-year-old Indian female. …That says everything we need it to say.”) but she’s just as quick to tout her own conversion to mainstream Christianity, and her love of Joan Jett (what?).
This isn’t winning her any hosannas in her home state—as Post writer Ned Martel points out, only a third of Haley’s constituents think she’s doing a good job as governor—but it is certainly giving her the national profile that she seems to desire. “With a book launch planned for April, Haley carefully associates herself with the GOP’s other emerging leaders,” Martel writes, like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. She says she’s not gunning for vice president—though she did just endorse Mitt Romney—and I buy it. For 2012. She is only 38, after all. I would be very surprised if by 2016, we didn’t see Haley on a dais somewhere, cutting a figure that’s more Michele Bachmann than it is Michaele Salahi.