Nikki Haley's victory in South Carolina's bruising GOP primary for governor moves the state lawmaker closer to becoming her state's first woman chief executive and America's first Sikh-born governor, while assuring her a place on the national political scene.
Like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who immediately touched off presidential talk when he won his state's governorship, Haley's primary victory sets off talk of a possible vice presidential campaign in 2012. As an Indian-American woman from an early primary state, she would bring a combination of diversity and conservatism that many in the GOP have been seeking.
Little known even in her own state just months ago, Haley got a crucial boost with early support from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the tea party movement.
Along the way, she weathered rumors of infidelity and questions about her religious and ethnic background.
During the past month, state Sen. Jake Knotts, a self-described "redneck," called Haley a "raghead" and questioned whether she was a Christian. Earlier, a lobbyist and a blogger both claimed to have had affairs with her. Haley, a married mother of two, categorically denied the unsubstantiated claims and made it clear she was baptized in the Methodist church.