By Margaret Newkirk -Bloomberg
South CarolinaÂ Governor Nikki Haley is betting her future on Mitt Romneyâ€™s, exhausting the support that Tea Partyers once supplied her.
Haley endorsed Romney in the stateâ€™s Jan. 21 Republican presidential primary, a decision that might vault her into national office or stall her career in Columbia, scorned by those who elected her.
â€œIt was like your best friend took up with a really bad boyfriend,â€ said Karen Martin, 54, an organizer for the Tea Party chapter in Spartanburg County.
Haley, 39, was elected in 2010 as a champion of the movement that pushed statesâ€™ rights and fiscal rectitude. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she was an adversary of the Legislatureâ€™s good-old-boy network and became the first woman to run theÂ stateÂ that ranks 50th in female representation, said Karen Kedrowski, political science chairwoman forÂ Rock Hillâ€™s Winthrop University.
That such a politician would endorse Romney, whom Newt Gingrich has called someone trying to â€œpretend heâ€™s a conservative,â€ was jaw-dropping, Haleyâ€™s Tea Party and Libertarian supporters said in interviews this week.
Martin, whose county went for Haley by 59 percent in 2010, got six calls from allies in an hour after Haley announced her decision last month, she said. â€œPeople were angry, disappointed, betrayed, hurt,â€ she said. She portrayed the rift as a family fight.
Romney led Gingrich 23 percent to 21 percent in the state, according to a poll conducted Jan. 11 for the Augusta Chronicle and Savannah Morning News that had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.
Haley said in a telephone interview that her choice of the former Massachusetts governor and private-equity executive at Bain Capital LLC aligned with her principles.
â€œI did not want a bureaucrat,â€ she said. â€œI did want a businessman. I didnâ€™t want anybody who had anything to do with the chaos inÂ Washington.â€
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