Nikki Haley Says Health Care Will Remain Issue For Romney

South Carolina's governor weighs in on 2012 politics.

ByABC News
May 15, 2011, 9:15 AM

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2011 -- Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney "will have to continue to deal with" fallout over his Massachusetts health care reform bill, saying it will remain a challenge for his primary prospects.

"I will tell you we do not want a Massachusetts health care plan in South Carolina," Haley said in an exclusive interview with ABC News "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour.

"I think that he will have to continue to deal with that issue. I think he's going to have to talk about how that was not good for the country. That wouldn't be a good thing that we'd want to mandate on all of our states."

Last Thursday, former Massachusetts Governor Romney gave an address in Michigan attempting to distinguish the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform law that he signed into law from President Obama's plan passed into law last year. Romney has come under fire from conservatives, who say his health care plan closely resembles Obama's reform efforts.

"The interesting thing was he was one of the only governors that showed courage when it came to dealing with health care," Haley said. "I think that we are looking for a leader that's willing to, one, make courageous stands, take strong policy decisions, but two, also admit when a mistake was made."

"Every candidate's going to have their challenge, I certainly think that's going to be his challenge," Haley added.

Haley has been a supporter of Romney's in the past, endorsing him in 2008 when he ran for president. Romney reciprocated by endorsing Haley's 2010 gubernatorial race, which she won to become the youngest current governor in the country. Haley's endorsement will be important for any 2012 Republican presidential hopeful in the early primary state of South Carolina.

Haley has yet to endorse a nominee for the Republican ticket, and welcomes more candidates entering the race. But as for her possibly throwing her hat in the ring as a vice presidential nominee on the Republican ticket, Hayley flatly rejected the idea, saying "I plan on committing to the people of this state my full four years in office."

Assessing the GOP Field

Haley also weighed in on other potential candidates for the GOP nomination, some of whom kicked off the campaign season in a presidential debate in Greenville, S.C. on May 5.

Haley said that "it remains to be seen" whether former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who formally joined the presidential race last week, can translate his past political experience into a successful candidacy.

"I think that the people of South Carolina and across this country are really going to push these candidates in a way that we've never pushed them before," Haley said. "I think that Newt Gingrich has dealt with a lot of issues in the past, and I think now he's going to have to show that he's got those ideas to deal with the future."

Indiana governor Mitch Daniels is still mulling a 2012 run, and this week drew coverage in major newspapers over his wife's apparent reluctance to have their personal lives scrutinized on a national stage. Haley, whose own personal life became the focus of her primary campaign in 2010, called the focus "ridiculous."

"I think it's a terrible distraction to a campaign," Haley said. "I think what you need to be looking at and what I'm certainly looking at is what type of governor he was."