After Rubio remark, Haley downplays talk of vice presidential prospects in Bluffton

Gov. Nikki Haley downplayed rumors that she might be among those considered for the Republican ticket in 2016 at a fundraiser in Bluffton on Thursday night.

Haley's name has circulated quietly for months as a prospect for the GOP's next vice presidential slot after two violent tragedies and historic floods thrust the state -- and her handling of the situations -- into the national spotlight.

She was the first person mentioned when U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was asked about a possible running mate at his local campaign stop on Hilton Head earlier Thursday morning.

"The Republican party has a tremendous wealth of talent at the state level -- look at your own governor, the governor of New Mexico. We have a very deep bench of talented people," Rubio told attendees at the S.C. Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting.

But Haley contended, as she has since this summer, that she is not considering the possibility at this time in her speech to more than 100 members of the Beaufort County Republican Party on Thursday night.

"Y'all keep trying to get rid of me, and I'm not going anywhere," she said to big laughs after being asked about her political aspirations.

Haley's response to the mass shooting in Charleston that killed nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church and her ensuing call to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds was widely hailed by pundits and lawmakers across the country. It eventually landed her on Politico Magazine's "Politico 50" list of the most influential leaders in American politics this year.

The national buzz has followed her since.

"It is flattering, and I greatly appreciate the vote of confidence by so many that have talked about it, but I have not thought about it," she said after the event.

But she has not closed the door on the opportunity, should it come knocking.

"If somebody wants to sit down and talk, of course we'll sit down and talk," she said. "But it's just not something I think about on a day-to-day basis. I mean, I can't imagine it at this point. There's so many good candidates, and when I look at the stage for president, I also look at a stage for a lot of good VPs."

Haley had no shortage of other issues to tackle this year with what she calls the "triple kick to the gut" of the shooting death of Walter Scott last spring, the Charleston shootings in June and the deadly floods last month.

"For all these years, I've been trying to do things to make South Carolinians appreciate who we are. You know what just happened with those tragedies this year?" Haley asked. "Now the whole country knows what kind of place South Carolina is.

"Everybody stepped up. Everybody gave this country faith and hope at a time we all needed it."

As a tumultuous 2015 winds down, it leaves several legislative priorities still unattended to, Haley added.

Next year, the S.C. General Assembly must address ethics reform, she said, and she expects members to do so before March.

"Do you know why this is the year? Because if they deliver before March, they won't have opposition," she teased, referencing the filing deadline for the 2016 party primary races.

Legislators also must address a long-term plan for improving the state's infrastructure, which was stalled this year after a filibuster by Beaufort Republican Sen. Tom Davis, who opposed a provision to raise the gas tax, she said.

A long-term plan must not be confused with short-term aid the state is pursuing for roads damaged during the recent floods, she added.

Box: Rubio, Haley 2016?

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio name-dropped the governor during his campaign stop Thursday morning on Hilton Head when asked who might consider as a running mate.

Watch a video of the Florida senator's full comment online: http://bit.ly/1GZhXHX.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach and on Facebook at facebook.com/IPBGZach.

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