Haley, who rolled out a video announcing her campaign Tuesday, spoke in Charleston Wednesday, casting herself as a new chapter in American politics in an apparent dig both at President Joe Biden and Trump.
"We're ready, ready to move past the stale ideas and faded names of the past, and we are more than ready for a new generation to lead us into the future," she said. "I come here today with a vision of that future."
Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under Trump, cast the stakes of the 2024 presidential race in near apocalyptic terms, warning that supposed weakness at home and abroad put the country at peril.
"The stakes are nothing less than our survival. And you and I and every American is being summoned to bold action. And so, I have an announcement to make," she said.
"I stand before you as the daughter of immigrants, as the proud wife of a combat veteran and as the mom of two amazing children. I've served as governor of the great state of South Carolina and as America's ambassador to the United Nations. And above all else, I'm a grateful American citizen who knows our best days are yet to come if we unite and fight to save our country," she said.
"I have devoted my life to this fight, and I'm just getting started," she continued. "For a strong America, for a proud America, I am running for president of the United States of America."
Much of Haley's announcement speech read like a typical Republican address, lambasting Biden and the Democratic Party over what she cast as rampant crime, an uncontrolled border, an eagerness for tax hikes and more.
Haley also addressed what she decried as a lack of patriotism sweeping the country, warning that ideas about Americans battles with racism and other issues could weaken the U.S. at home and abroad.
"On Biden and Harris' watch, a self-loathing has swept our country. It's in the classroom, the boardroom and the backrooms of government. Every day, we're told America is flawed, rotten and full of hate. Joe and Kamala even say America is racist. Nothing could be further from the truth," she said. "This self-loathing is a virus more dangerous than any pandemic. Its system of a lack of pride in our country and a lack of trust in our leaders and ignores the values that have sustained America since our founding."
"Strengthening America, believing once again in America, is the only way to defend ourselves from those who want to destroy us. When America is distracted, the world is less safe, and today our enemies think the American era has passed. They're wrong. America is not past our prime, it's just that our politicians are past theirs," she added to applause.
Haley's message of elevating a younger, more diverse generation took center stage in her speech.
At 51, Haley offers a fresh face to any voters worried over a potential rematch between Biden, 80, and Trump, 76. Emphasizing her point, she proposed having "mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old."
And Haley also highlighted her background as the daughter of two Indian immigrants while hinting at the historic nature her potential presidency.
"It will require doing some things we've never done," she said of fixing the country's ailments as she sees them, "like sending a tough-as-nails woman to the White House."
However, Haley faces a tough road ahead, running in what is anticipated to be a crowded primary field against one of the most brutal political knife fighters of the modern GOP in Trump.
Polling has shown Haley trailing both Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., perceived to be mulling a presidential bid of his own.
In a sign of the barbs coming her way as the first candidate out of the gate besides Trump, the former president's campaign sent out an email blast Wednesday highlighting some of Haley's past comments, including citing Hillary Clinton as an inspiration for running for office, support for entitlement reform and past avowal to not run for president if Trump did.
"Nikki Haley is just another career politician. She started out as a Never Trumper before resigning to serve in the Trump admin. She then resigned early to go rake in money on corporate boards. Now, she’s telling us she represents a 'new generation.' Sure just looks like more of the same, a career politician whose only fulfilled commitment is to herself," Taylor Budowich, the head of a pro-Trump super PAC, said in a statement Tuesday.
Still, Haley is moving full steam ahead, planning travel to Iowa and New Hampshire, two other early primary states.
And the former South Carolina governor, who was first elected to the state House in 2004 by knocking off a 30-year GOP incumbent and rising to the governorship as an underdog, said she's ready to face the slog.
"I've been underestimated before. That's always fun. And I've been shaking up the status quo my entire life," she said. "As I set out on this new journey, I will simply say this: may the best woman win."
"We've lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. Our cause is right, but we have failed to win the confidence of a majority of Americans. Well, that ends today," Haley concluded. "If you're tired of losing, put your trust in a new generation. And if you want to win, not just as a party, but as a country, stand with me."