President Obama's final State of the Union address is just days away, but one of the more exciting moments of this annual hurrah actually comes when the address is over. The Republican Party's response has yielded notorious moments in the past, like Marco Rubio's gulp heard around the world or Joni Ernst's bread bag shoes, and oftentimes they have overshadowed any serious policy rhetoric. So, there's solid reason to believe that a lot of redemption is riding on this year's GOP designee — in more ways than once. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is set to deliver Republicans' response this year, and it's a keen opportunity for the rising GOP star to get some national face time and give the party a much needed boost with voters ahead of the November election.
Haley already has some historic notches under her belt. At age 43, she is the country's youngest governor currently in office as well as the first female governor to lead South Carolina. Haley, born Nimrata "Nikki" Randhawa to Sikh parents, is also the second Indian American governor in U.S. history (the first being Louisiana's Bobby Jindal).
She served in South Carolina's House of Representatives from 2005 to 2011 before running for governor in 2010. Her first term as governor followed an expected route as she pushed for low taxes and deregulation. It's her second term, though, that catapulted her name into the top echelons of the Republican Party.
After the June massacre of a black Charleston church that left nine dead, including a state senator, Haley led an emotional press conference to comfort a state and nation shocked by the blatant violence. And in the aftermath, as bipartisan calls for the Confederate flag to be removed from state capitol grounds poured in from across the country, Haley signed the bill that removed what had long been a divisive issue for the Palmetto State. In that moment, it was immediately clear that Haley was someone to watch, and her admirable leadership during the trying time sparked murmurs that she could be tapped for vice president in 2016.
Haley has had some bumps in the road — she once marked her race as "white" on her voter registration — but as both a woman and a minority in the Republican Party, she provides much needed balance to the GOP and is an ideal choice to deliver the party's opposition to Obama's remarks. She's the most dependable Republican in recent memory to be the "face of the party," and her response to the State of the Union will essentially be a test for the coveted veep spot on the 2016 ticket. With her state also set to host the next GOP debate just two days later, it seems Haley's time is now.