Nikki Haley

Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley gives a speech during the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting at The Venetian hotel-casino Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Las Vegas. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley is being feted Thursday night at The Citadel, where a Republican group is making her the first woman to receive its highest honor.

Haley, a potential 2024 presidential contender and a former South Carolina governor, will receive the Nathan Hale Patriot Award, an honor that comes along with a replica Revolutionary War musket. Previous recipients include Donald Trump in 2015 — before he was president — former White House adviser Steve Bannon in 2018 and then-Vice President Mike Pence last year.

As Haley ponders her next political steps, the setting — a fundraising gathering put on by The Citadel Republican Society, which advertises itself as “the largest Republican club in the South” — is among a series of well-worn stops for other politicians seeking exposure among Republicans in the first-in-the-South presidential primary state.

Her speech in accepting the award will mark her first public comments in South Carolina since leaving her post at the U.N., where she served the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019. Since then, Haley has written a memoir, set up a political action committee, weighed into down-ballot campaigns and visited early-voting states.

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During that time, however, Haley has also been among ascendant Republicans uncertain of how to lead in a party grappling with the role Trump still plays within it, as well as how to approach the 2024 campaign cycle, given Trump’s tease of a possible future bid. Pressed by The Associated Press on that question in April, Haley committed to sitting it out if Trump seeks a second term.

The day after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, Haley told Republican National Committee members that Trump had been “badly wrong with his words” and that “his actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.”

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