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Former Ambassador To UN Nikki Haley Joins Senator Loeffler For Campaign Rally
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks in Cumming, Ga. in 2020.Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Nikki Haley becomes 5th GOP woman to run for president

Three times as many Democratic women have run as Republican women, according to the Center for American Women in Politics. 


Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s decision to run for president makes her the fifth prominent Republican woman to run for the White House.

In her announcement video, Haley leaned into her profile as a woman candidate in her, saying, “I don’t put up with bullies. And when you kick back, it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels. I’m Nikki Haley, and I’m running for president.” 

Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said the heels reference could be an attempt to appeal to women Republicans and distinguish herself from male candidates. 

"I heard it as a bit of a message to Republican women voters — ‘I’m like you’ — and playing to the gendered component of her candidacy,” Walsh said.

“That was sort of a combination of ‘I’m a woman but I’m tough,’” Walsh added. “Especially for the presidency, that has always been the challenge. A woman, is she strong enough? … She has to portray toughness but she’s also wanting to lean into the fact that she is a woman candidate.” 

Haley becomes the 24th prominent woman to run for president, according to CAWP, which defines prominent female candidates as those who have “achieved major historic firsts; were named in national polls; achieved prominence by holding significant elected or appointed office; appeared on the general election ballot in a majority of states; and/or became eligible for federal matching funds.”

Haley is the first woman governor to run for president, Walsh noted, and the first Asian American woman to seek the Republican nomination. 

Three times as many Democratic women have run for president as Republicans, fueled largely by the crowded field of Democrats who ran in 2020. A total of 12 prominent Democratic women have run for the White House in U.S. history, and six of them ran in the 2020 primary. One of those candidates, then-California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, went on to become the first female vice president.

Only one woman in U.S. history — Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton — has gone on to win a major party's nomination.

Walsh said that partisan disparity is a product of fewer Republican women at lower levels of government, noting there are twice as many Democratic women serving in state legislatures than Republicans.

"It may start at the state legislative level and then it keeps duplicating itself as you move up into the levels of office," Walsh said. "So in that way, it is not surprising that we would see more Democratic women as candidates for the presidency.” 

The most recent GOP woman to seek the presidency was Carly Fiorina, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2016 GOP primary. Four years earlier, then-Minnesota GOP Rep. Michelle Bachmann sought the GOP nomination.

And Haley may not be the last woman Republican to jump into the 2024 race. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is considered a possible candidate. And former Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney has also signaled that she could run for president.

CORRECTION: (Feb. 15, 2023, 10:02 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the the number of Democratic women who have run for president. That number is 12, not 13.