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Nikki Haley’s ‘Rock’ Is Watching Her Campaign From a Distance

Nikki Haley’s ‘Rock’ Is Watching Her Campaign From a Distance


When Nikki Haley conceded her deflating third-place defeat within the Iowa caucuses this month, the primary individual she thanked was almost 8,000 miles away.

“I need to say to my husband, who’s deployed, who I do know might or is probably not watching this proper now — Michael, I really like you,” she mentioned, standing in entrance of a row of American flags. “What retains me going at night time is that we sleep below the identical stars.”

It was an unusually private and nearly saccharine notice for a politician identified for her robust exterior. But it was hardly misplaced.

Even in his absence, Maj. Michael Haley, a National Guardsman serving a voluntary, yearlong deployment in Africa, has performed an outsize function in his spouse’s more and more lonely try to grab the Republican nomination from former President Donald J. Trump.

In almost each stump speech, Ms. Haley describes her husband and his navy profession as considered one of her motives for operating. She regularly refers to his struggles after getting back from a struggle zone in her guarantees to enhance well being look after veterans. She means that his work has knowledgeable her overseas coverage.

Yet, regardless of this prominence, Major Haley himself stays one thing of a clean slate. While different candidates’ spouses — with the notable exception of Melania Trump — logged miles throughout Iowa and New Hampshire final yr attempting to humanize their different halves, he has prevented the extreme scrutiny, in addition to the general public talking, picture ops and interviews, that comes with campaigning.

Those who know him say that is simply as he likes it. A former foster baby who met his spouse when he was 19, Major Haley has largely orbited her ambitions since.

While her profession marched upward, his meandered; he labored for her mother and father and ran a struggling bartering enterprise earlier than he discovered the navy. More not too long ago, he was concerned in a on line casino deal and presently has an ill-defined function with a small protection firm.

Until this yr, he has at all times campaigned at her aspect, although largely out of the highlight.

“He’s completely content material as a rock Nikki leans on within the background,” mentioned Rob Godfrey, who labored as a spokesman for Ms. Haley throughout each of her campaigns for South Carolina governor in addition to most of her time in that workplace.

Major Haley not often speaks to the information media, and declined a request for an interview. When requested about his deployment in June, he advised The Associated Press that he “can’t assist however to assume giving one yr, together with my fellow troopers, as many have executed earlier than me, to safe a lifetime of freedom for my household, is properly value all that comes with it.”

Ms. Haley has turned to her husband as “a touchstone on vital points” at key moments in her profession, Mr. Godfrey mentioned.

In the times after a racist gunman killed 9 folks at a traditionally Black church in Charleston, S.C., Ms. Haley determined to push to take away the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds after consulting with Major Haley, Mr. Godfrey mentioned.

“There was no query: Nikki needed to speak to the individual she trusted probably the most about what to do,” Mr. Godfrey mentioned.

Major Haley’s politics seem to reflect his spouse’s; prior to now, he has sometimes taken to social media to criticize her political opponents or Democratic officers.

Friends describe him as a golfer, a soccer fan and an avid hunter who relishes posting photos of alligators he has bagged. The couple’s son, Nalin, a university senior, described his father in an interview with The New York Times as a prankster and a lover of “the everyday dad jokes.”

His father watched each debate from Camp Lemonnier, the sprawling navy base in Djibouti the place he’s deployed, Mr. Haley mentioned, and he has a behavior of turning images of his household or his spouse’s employees into memes that he shares on-line. “Sometimes they’re actually humorous, or they’re actually dangerous,” he mentioned. “There isn’t any in-between.”

Major Haley, 53, didn’t have a simple begin in life. His organic father was an alcoholic who had bother with the regulation. He spent his earliest years in Ohio, residing in a home that always had no electrical energy or operating water, Ms. Haley wrote in her 2012 guide, “Can’t Is Not An Option.”

His mom suffered a extreme mind damage when he was 3, and Major Haley went to a foster residence with two of his sisters, whereas the oldest two siblings had been positioned in one other residence.

The subsequent yr, he and his youthful sister, Lee Anne, had been adopted by Bill and Carole Haley. Bill was the manager of a metal mill, and Carole was a schoolteacher. It could be 15 years earlier than Michael tracked down the remainder of his brothers and sisters, Ms. Haley wrote.

Major Haley met his future spouse in school, when she was a freshman learning accounting at Clemson University and he was enrolled at Anderson University, a small Christian faculty close by.

At the time, Major Haley glided by the identical first identify as his adoptive father, Bill. But Ms. Haley recounts in her memoir that quickly after they began relationship she advised him, “You simply don’t appear to be a Bill.” She as a substitute selected to name him by his center identify, Michael, and it caught, she wrote.

The couple encountered resistance from Ms. Haley’s mother and father, who’re Sikh immigrants from India and needed their daughter to marry somebody with the identical faith. But in 1996, two years after he proposed, they married in separate Sikh and Christian ceremonies and finally settled in Lexington, S.C.

Both labored for her mother and father’ clothes enterprise, Exotica International. Major Haley managed the lads’s put on division, whereas Ms. Haley did the books. As she took to politics, he invested within the bartering franchise. As they raised their two kids — Nalin has an older sister, Rena — the household enterprise struggled and cash was tight.

In 2006, when Ms. Haley was a first-term state consultant, Major Haley completed his school diploma and shortly thereafter joined the South Carolina Army National Guard as a 36-year-old second lieutenant, older than most new officers.

The navy gave him a gentle objective and a modest revenue. In 2007, he took a full-time job as a federal navy technician, working in human assets on insurance policies to advertise variety within the Guard and defend towards discrimination primarily based on race, gender or incapacity.

Major Haley stayed within the job when he grew to become the primary gentleman of South Carolina — the state’s first — in 2010, after an unpleasant marketing campaign by which Ms. Haley was pressured to disclaim accusations of marital infidelity. He used the function to advocate points near residence — adjustments to adoption legal guidelines and veteran companies — however saved his focus largely on his household.

“He just isn’t a retail politician,” mentioned Ted Pitts, a good friend and fellow Guardsman, who can also be a former state consultant. “He’s dedicated to the household and places out a number of effort and time to verify the household is taken care of.”

In 2012, the third deadliest yr for U.S. troops throughout the struggle in Afghanistan, Major Haley raised his hand for a mission targeted on educating farmers within the nation to develop and promote crops apart from opium. While many National Guard deployments are obligatory, this one was strictly voluntary, mentioned Dwight Bradham, a retired main who helped oversee the agribusiness workforce’s work.

(When the information of his deployment broke, Ms. Haley took to Facebook, posting lyrics to the 1988 ballad by the hair-metal band Poison, “Every Rose Has a Thorn.”)

Major Haley, then a captain, deployed in January 2013 to Helmand Province. While he was not in a fight unit, he did have a couple of brushes with roadside bombs. “People had some mind rattle there from the explosions,” mentioned Lt. Col. Scott Ward, who’s now retired however served because the commanding officer of the agricultural mission.

Everyone knew who he was, however he “didn’t sit again and attempt to get particular remedy due to who his spouse is,” Major Bradham mentioned. “He’s a soldier.”

Ms. Haley regularly describes her husband’s re-entry as troublesome. “When Michael returned from Afghanistan, loud noises startled him,” Ms. Haley mentioned in an advert launched in December. “He couldn’t be in crowds. The transition was onerous.”

Friends describe Major Haley, who earned a bronze star in Afghanistan, as slipping into his subsequent function with out apparent indicators of stress. When Ms. Haley grew to become the ambassador to the United Nations in 2017, he joined his spouse at diplomatic occasions and dinners, in addition to on official journeys abroad.

Since the couple’s return to South Carolina in late 2018, Major Haley has saved a decrease profile. Friends say he’s intently concerned in taking good care of Ms. Haley’s mother and father. Financial disclosures present that he runs an organization that manages revenue from his spouse’s speeches and guide gross sales, in addition to a household funding portfolio.

In 2022, The Wall Street Journal reported that he was amongst a number of politically related figures with stakes in an organization that acquired a share of slot machine earnings from a tribal on line casino in North Carolina. Others with stakes included John B. Clyburn, a brother of Representative James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, and Patti Solis Doyle, a Democratic political operative.

Wallace Cheves, a developer who spearheaded the venture, mentioned that Major Haley was given his stake in trade for cybersecurity companies.

“He was a marketing consultant of a marketing consultant that labored with the tribe,” Mr. Cheves mentioned in response to questions.

Financial disclosures present that he additionally has a stake value as a lot as $500,000 in Allied Defense, an organization registered with the federal authorities as a veteran-owned “navy armored automobile, tank and tank part manufacturing concern.” But it doesn’t seem to have any federal contracts.

The Haley marketing campaign declined to touch upon Major Haley’s cybersecurity background or to reveal details about his involvement with the protection agency.

Major Haley was deployed once more final June, this time to Djibouti, a base for counterterrorism operations in Africa. He joined the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade as a planning officer for the mission. Because he didn’t belong to the unit, it was an task that he would have needed to request, based on a number of former Guardsmen.

The deployment has meant that he has missed a lot of his spouse’s marketing campaign — her weeks of glad-handing, her standout debate performances, her poor displaying in Iowa, her New Hampshire loss and now the extreme stress from fellow Republicans to stop.

“There isn’t an excellent time for a deployment,” Ms. Haley posted on social media after seeing off her husband, together with a number of hundred different troopers, in a ceremony on the Citadel, a navy school in Charleston, in June.

“How blessed are we to stay in a rustic the place women and men are prepared to sacrifice and serve to defend our freedoms?” she wrote.

Jazmine Ulloa and Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed analysis.



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