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Nikki Haley: Rick Perry's Timing Is 'Brilliant'

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NIKKI HALEY
AP

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- What do you do the morning you're set to announce you're running for president? Apparently, you call up the governor of one of the early primary states whose endorsement could be important to your candidacy.

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) is expected to announce that he's making his long-anticipated entrance into the Republican presidential field on Saturday afternoon at the annual RedState gathering in Charleston. More than 400 conservative activists are attending the conference.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) told reporters Saturday morning that she had just finished talking to Perry and told him it was a "great choice" to announce in her state.

"[I] advised him to make sure he's spoken to every corner of the state and not just the GOP groups, and that he would find South Carolina very welcoming," she said.

Perry's decision has taken some attention away from the Ames Straw Poll, the most important political event for Iowa Republicans during the summer campaign season. While some political strategists have questioned the wisdom of potentially offending voters there, Haley praised his strategy.

"I think his timing was brilliant," she said. "I think to turn around and do this the same day you've got an Ames Iowa Poll really just lets us all know it's game-on time for all the candidates, and I love that."

Hayley said she will endorse a GOP candidate before the South Carolina primary.

During her speech to the attendees, Haley tried to address any qualms Republicans may have about the 2012 GOP field, playing up the importance of beating Obama and the importance of focusing on policy issues in the upcoming election.

"This presidential election is probably the most important we have ever had," she said. "Someone was talking to me the other day and he said, 'I'm just not excited about the Republican candidates.' And I said, 'Are you kidding? I'm excited about the issues we have to discuss.' We've got great issues. We've got great candidates. The combination is magical because you're going against a president who has failed."

A major focus of Haley's speech focused on taking on labor unions, a battle she encouraged the attendees to elevate in the 2012 election.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleged that Boeing illegally shifted work from Washington state to South Carolina in order to build a new factory employing non-union workers.

Haley has vocally supported Boeing in the matter and gone after the labor unions. Unions had sued Hayley for her anti-union statements, but a judge ruled in the governor's favor this week, saying federal labor laws don't prohibit "the expression of political animosity toward unions."

"There was a time when we needed them. We don't need them anymore," she said of unions. "They're trying to be relevant, and they're not. So what happened? The unions sued me. They told me I was talking too much smack about them, and I told them, if they quit giving me reason, I'll quit talking about it."

She praised the judge who ruled in her favor, saying the case showed "why conservative judges matter."

"[Boeing is] fighting the fight for every company in this country," she said. "I am fighting the fight for every governor in this country. And Boeing and I are committed. I don't want any governor to go through this fight, and they don't want any other company to go through this fight. We're going to fight, and we're going to win, and this will never happen again."

When an attendee asked her how they could help fight for Boeing, she encouraged activists to ask every presidential candidate where they stand on the issue, in order to draw a contrast with President Obama.

Despite her heavy focus on corporations in her speech, she wasn't willing to go so far as former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.), who received significant attention recently for saying that "corporations are people too."

"I think that his intentions were good," she told reporters. "He was just trying to say we need to think about businesses, we need to think about people. I think that someone took it the wrong way and the press is having a field day with it. It will pass."

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