Nikki Haley Feels the Love in Her South Carolina Hometown - The World News

Nikki Haley Feels the Love in Her South Carolina Hometown

Nearly a year after Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, released a video announcing her presidential campaign, she returned to the place where it was shot: her hometown of Bamberg, S.C.

Ms. Haley has, in recent weeks, traveled throughout the state as she tries to catch up with former President Donald J. Trump, who leads her in state polls by more than 30 points. On Tuesday, she received a warm welcome at Bamberg Veterans Park, where, after hugging attendees on her way in as cheers and clanging cowbells rang out, Ms. Haley at times departed from her usual remarks to gush about how the community had shaped her.

“This is the town that taught me strength, this is the town that taught me grace, this is the town that taught me faith,” she told the crowd of about 100 people. “And this is the town that taught me no matter what, neighbors take care of neighbors.”

Ms. Haley was introduced by the town’s mayor, Nancy Foster, who recalled stories about Ms. Haley from childhood, and noted that Ms. Haley’s brother, Mitti Randhawa, had played on her husband’s tennis team.

“Nikki, Bamberg is so very proud of you, and we wish you well in all of your endeavors,” she said.

But even with the friendly audience, her uphill battle to peel votes away from Mr. Trump remained clear. Ms. Foster told a Times reporter after the event that she hadn’t made up her mind about who to support at the ballot box.

The small town — population 3,000 — was hit by a tornado last month that wrecked parts of the downtown area, according to local news reports. Destroyed buildings with exposed timber were visible from where Ms. Haley spoke, and she appeared to reference the recent struggles.

“This is a tough time, and I know that there’s some more healing that needs to be done, and I know that people have suffered,” she said. “But I know if there’s any town that can get through it, it’s Bamberg.”

The crowd, while small, was enthusiastic. Lines from Ms. Haley’s stump speech that have received polite applause at other recent campaign events were met with exuberant cheers on Tuesday, like when she said, “We defeated a dozen of the fellas, we just got one fella to catch up to.”

She referenced Mr. Trump in her remarks, but kept the focus largely on what she hoped to accomplish in office — something that Marlene Workman, a Republican who owns a small business in Bamberg, said she appreciated.

“She’s not trying to put everybody else down — it’s not a negative campaign,” said Ms. Workman, 57. But Ms. Workman acknowledged Ms. Haley’s uphill battle in the state, saying that “a lot of people don’t give her a good chance, they don’t listen to what she has to say.”

Tammy Smoak, a 60-year-old Bamberg resident who said she used to work for a small business owned by Ms. Haley’s parents, said the former governor impressed her as “real.” Seeing Ms. Haley in person solidified her decision to back Ms. Haley in the upcoming primary on Feb. 24, she added.

“She hasn’t forgotten where she’s from and what made her, and she is a person of character,” Ms. Smoak said.

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