Washington: Nikki Haley's abrupt resignation as the US ambassador to the United Nations has sparked intense speculation about the moderate Republican politician's next move and the political complications she could still pose to President Donald Trump, US media reported Wednesday.
In a sign of her rising profile, Haley on Tuesday simultaneously announced her resignation at the end of this year while also reassuring President Trump that she has no plans to challenge his reelection in 2020, the Washington Post noted.
"No, I'm not running for 2020," the Indian-American politician said, seated next to the president in the Oval Office. "I can promise you what I'll be doing is campaigning for this one. So, I look forward to supporting the president in the next election," she said.
The blunt statement underscores both the loyalty demanded by Trump and the political complications Haley could pose to the president, the Post said. At 46, Haley has built her own political brand and has a long potential career ahead of her, it said.
"The former South Carolina governor mixes homespun Southern charm with hard-boiled political savvy — a daughter of immigrants boasting both executive experience in her home state and foreign policy chops from two years as one of Trump's top diplomats," the influential paper said.
"She's a rising star and he's king, so there's always an inherent tension there," the Post quoted Mike Murphy, a longtime Republican strategist and Trump critic, as saying. "Politically, any star in the party is a threat to Trump because in his Stalinesque way, there's only one sun god and it has to be Trump," Murphy said.
The New York Times noted that Haley's resignation marked the departure of one of the few high-profile women in the Trump administration. The paper pointed out that Haley had been an early and frequent critic of Trump, but he named her to the United Nations job weeks after his election.
"As ambassador, Haley has been an outspoken and often forceful envoy — someone whom foreign diplomats looked to for guidance from an administration known for haphazard and inconsistent policy positions — who emerged as something of a star amid the dysfunction of the president's first national security team," the prominent American newspaper commented.
People close to Haley insisted there was nothing behind her decision other than fatigue after nearly two years in a rigorous job, the report said. She also wanted to make her decision known before the mid-term election next month to avoid the potential for an embarrassing departure if the vote were to go against the president, it said.
"Haley's joint appearance with Trump and his effusive praise for her made her a rarity among officials departing the Trump administration, whom he often criticises as they go out the door," the New York Times said.
A leading newspaper in Haley's home state said her decision to leave her post has sparked intense speculation in South Carolina about her next move. Without being asked, Haley — wearing her signature necklace, featuring the South Carolina state flag's palmetto tree and crescent — quickly threw cold water on any speculation that she will challenge Trump in 2020, The State said.
It noted that Haley also made it clear that she would not challenge Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of Seneca in 2020.
Graham said Tuesday that Haley was a "clear, concise voice for American leadership, American values and has been a true agent of reform when it came to the United Nations."
"Nikki Haley has a very bright future and will be a key player in both the future of the Republican Party and our nation as a whole for years to come," he said.
Republican observers say joining the private sector now is a smart move for Haley, who, having spent most of her career in public office, has little money. Haley leaves her UN post with up to USD 1 million in debt, The State reported, quoting a 2017 financial disclosure.
CNN commented that Haley is getting out of the Trump administration with her stature elevated and political prospects brightened -- not something that could be said for most top political power players who leave the President's reputation-crushing fold.
As she sat smiling beside Trump, their unusual photo op, and the generosity of a President whose good mood may owe much to his current political roll, suggested Haley has the essential ingredient of high-flying political careers -- timing.
Outshining the showman in chief in her Oval Office goodbye on Tuesday, Haley pocketed a valuable endorsement for a political career no one thinks is over, it said.
If Trump loses re-election in 2020, Haley would be immediately at the top of the list of potential Republican candidates for 2024, it said. Whatever happens in 2020, and given the Republican Party's current plight among female voters, it is likely that future leaders will be looking to close the gender gap. Haley's timing could be spot on again, if Republicans go searching for a female candidate who is popular, is experienced as a governor, has a foreign policy resume, is well regarded by Trump voters and comes from a crucial early primary state, the report said.