Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley on Wednesday makes her first public appearance since announcing plans to run for US president in 2024, addressing Republican supporters who say it is time for new party leadership to replace Donald Trump.
Haley is just the second declared candidate seeking the Republican nod to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in 2024, allowing her to stand out in a so-far uncrowded field but also exposing her to Trump's anger.
The 51-year-old former South Carolina governor declared her candidacy on Tuesday with a video that called for new party leadership -- a veiled jab at Trump, who some Republican leaders blame for the party's disappointing performance in November's midterm elections.
A source said Cindy Warmbier, whose college student son Otto Warmbier was imprisoned by North Korea and died soon after his release in 2017, will introduce Haley, who is expected to talk about her foreign policy experience.
"China and Russia are on the march. They all think we can be bullied, kicked. You should know this about me: I don't put up with bullies. And when you kick back, it hurts them more if you're wearing heels," she said in the video.
China has captured renewed attention in the United States over the past week after the US military shot down what officials said was a Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast. That turned out to be the first in a series of unexplained airborne objects that have attracted the scrutiny of national security officials.
She is due to speak to a crowd of several hundred people at the Charleston Visitors Center, in the historic city's downtown.
"I think Trump can be very polarizing and divisive at times," said Tim Jansen, 54, a Haley supporter from Charleston. "I would like to see a little more tolerance, a little more communication. Flexibility."
'TIME FOR A RESET'
Haley received an endorsement on Wednesday from prominent South Carolina Republican Ralph Norman, a member of the US House of Representatives' conservative Freedom Caucus who was a staunch supporter of Trump during his presidency.
"It's time for a reset and a new chapter in national Republican politics, and there’s no better person to help write that new chapter than our former governor," Norman wrote on Twitter.
But Haley faces an uphill climb: a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday found that just 4% of registered Republicans supported Haley.
Trump received support from 43% of registered Republicans in the poll conducted from Feb. 6-13, while 31% said they supported Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to launch a campaign but has not yet done so.
At her kickoff speech, Haley is expected to make the case that generational change is needed within the party, said one close advisor given anonymity to preview the remarks. Haley is decades younger than Trump, who is 76, and Biden, who is 80.
Haley served as South Carolina's governor from 2011 through 2017. The state holds one of the first Republican primary contests.
She may not be the only South Carolina Republican eyeing the White House. US Senator Tim Scott, often considered a presidential contender himself, will kick off a "listening tour focused on Faith in America" in Charleston a day after Haley's event, according to a campaign advisory. He will then swing through Iowa, another key early voting state.
Haley received national attention in 2015 when, as governor, she called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state capitol after the murder of nine black churchgoers by white supremacist Dylann Roof.
But she later drew criticism in a 2019 interview when she said the flag represents "service, sacrifice and heritage," adding that its meaning had been hijacked by Roof.
If she wins, she would be the first non-white or female Republican presidential nominee.