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Nikki Haley makes White House run official

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Today, the former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, a Republican, announced that she is running for president. In a video posted on Twitter early this morning, she called for a, quote, "new generation of leadership." Haley is the second major candidate to declare a run for the Republican nomination in 2024 and the first since former President Trump announced his candidacy. NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben joins us now for more. Hey, Danielle.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey, there.

CHANG: OK, can you just briefly remind us of Haley's track record in politics?

KURTZLEBEN: Sure, yeah. So she started out in the South Carolina State House and then won the governorship in 2010. She was reelected in 2014, and then she left the governorship in 2017 to become Trump's U.N. ambassador. So that's a pretty big, pretty steady rise in Republican politics - from state lawmaker to the international stage. And in light of that, she's been talked about for years as a potential eventual GOP nominee. And so, well, now she's a candidate.

But one really fascinating and very salient factor in all of that is Trump. He's a very complicating factor. Nikki Haley was very, very vocally anti-Trump as of 2016, but then she went on to serve in his administration, which gave her the very foreign policy experience that she highlights in her announcement video. So she's had a lot of flip-flops around Trump, and that is going to be something she'll really have to address - not just explain how you changed your mind, but also what do you want the Republican Party to be? And notably, Trump does not come up in her announcement video.

CHANG: Huh. Well, also in her announcement video, she talks about being the child of Indian immigrants, like - and she also highlights that she's a Republican woman running for presidency, which is pretty unusual for the GOP.

KURTZLEBEN: Right.

CHANG: What's your sense - do you think that these will be big talking points in her campaign?

KURTZLEBEN: They may be, but she walks a very, very particular line here because you're right - the Republican side has tended to be less diverse than the Democratic side. She is the fifth woman to be a major candidate on the Republican side, the first Asian-American woman. And she starts off her announcement video by talking about her race. Here's what she says.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIKKI HALEY: I was the proud daughter of Indian immigrants - not Black, not white. I was different. But my mom would always say your job is not to focus on the differences, but the similarities.

KURTZLEBEN: And later in the video, she also references being a woman. But importantly, she gives zero hint that her race or her gender make her approach politics any differently. She's kind of saying, I'm different, but I'm the same as you, my fellow Republicans. And in fact, in the ad, she makes an effort to show the Dems - the Democrats - as divisive on race, but not her. She very much emphasizes unity.

CHANG: Well, I'm going to switch gears a little bit here. Speaking of historic women in politics, I want to raise another piece of news today. California Senator Dianne Feinstein announced today that she will be retiring after the 2024 election.

KURTZLEBEN: Right.

CHANG: What do you make of that?

KURTZLEBEN: Right. So again, yes, you're right - historic women. She has been an institution in the Senate. She's been there for over 30 years. Before that, she was the mayor of San Francisco. But this is also just emblematic of a conversation the Democrats have been having about the age of their leadership. Feinstein is 89. We just saw former Speaker Pelosi step back on the House side at the age of 82. Biden may run for president again. He's 80. So this is a really big conversation in the Democratic Party, but, already, this primary looks like it's going to be hard-fought, with multiple California lawmakers who are running or may run.

CHANG: That is NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Thank you, Danielle.

KURTZLEBEN: Yes, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.