South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is a “natural” and will deliver a “great” response to the State of the Union, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday.
Haley will respond to President Barack Obama’s speech for the Republican Party on Tuesday, an honor bestowed on rising stars in the GOP. The high-profile event has been both a launching pad for careers and an opportunity for embarrassment, depending on how the politician performs.
But the recently minted House speaker told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “The Lead” that he helped pick Haley because he believes the Indian-American governor, who is rumored as a contender for the vice presidential nominee, will knock it out of the park.
“I’m really excited about this,” Ryan said. “If you want to hear an inclusive leader who’s visionary, who’s got a path for the future, who’s brought people together, who’s unified, it’s Nikki Haley.”
Ryan himself gave the response in 2011, a year before he was tapped to be the running mate of Mitt Romney in an unsuccessful bid to take the White House.
“Believe me, I understand the stakes can be high for a person doing this speech,” Ryan said. “I think she’s a natural.”
He also divulged some of the advice he gave Haley, big and small.
“Put a cough drop in the corner of your mouth, it keeps you salivating so you don’t go thirsty,” Ryan said. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio famously had to awkwardly reach for water during his response in 2013.
But in seriousness, Ryan said he just told her to be herself.
“We just said, ‘Be yourself, communicate to the country, represent your party as well as you have been and you’ll be just fine,'” Ryan said. “I think she’s a great spokesman for our party, I think the future is extremely bright for Nikki and that’s why we asked her to do it.”
Ryan also weighed in on what he expects to hear from Obama in his address, and what he doesn’t.
As for the President’s executive actions on guns, announced last week, Ryan said they didn’t amount to much.
“The President has been giving us more distractions than solutions,” Ryan said. “I’m not really sure what he’s doing, other than he’s trying to create an issue, and I think he’s trying to distract from his failings.”
The Wisconsin Republican said he hoped to hear from the President on his plan to defeat ISIS, saying previous requests for authorization of the use of military force were rejected because they “constrain and handcuff the next president.”
“If he’s going to give us a plan to actually defeat ISIS, we’ll clearly work with him on that,” Ryan said.
Ryan also said the country is not measuring up to its “potential” under Obama, despite a dropping unemployment rate and steady job creation.
“I believe that the country is in a very bad place,” Ryan said. “I believe that our economy is extremely weak, I believe the world is on fire.”
The speaker declined to wade into the presidential race politics, but said Republicans need to put forward their ideas to win.
“For 2017 to be the kind of year it has to be, that 2016 is the year where we give the country an alternative, we give them ideas, we give them solutions, and we run on those,” Ryan said. “Instead of having a personality contest in 2016 we have an ideas contest, and I believe we can do that whoever our nominee is going to be.”