CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — State Rep. Nikki Haley, flanked by some big GOP names, said Friday she is running in the Republican gubernatorial runoff the only way she knows how to — campaigning hard and as if she were behind.
"I'm running like I was in fourth place. It's what I do," said the lawmaker from Lexington, who nearly captured the GOP nomination outright in the June 8 primary.
Haley, who had about 49 percent of the vote in the four-way primary, faces U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett in Tuesday's runoff.
About 100 people turned out at the College of Charleston as Haley appeared with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann, popular former first lady Jenny Sanford and primary opponent Henry McMaster, who this week endorsed Haley.
Haley told reporters she is taking nothing for granted, despite what seems an insurmountable task for Barrett to overtake her.
"It is about every person getting out to the polls," she said. "It's about every person understanding they are the ones who will influence what happens and I need them to get back out on Tuesday."
Romney told the crowd that Haley represents "a next generation conservative — a people's conservative."
"It's great to be able to come here and put our endorsement and stamp on Nikki Haley and say: You go Nikki, we need you," said Ann Romney, who has battled multiple sclerosis and other health problems and doesn't frequently campaign.
Haley has vehemently denied accusations of infidelity leveled by a political blogger and a lobbyist from a rival campaign. Mitt Romney said that last week's vote shows South Carolinians rejected such tactics.
"Efforts to distract voters from the key issues have proven ineffective here and I think that's the message across the country," said the former GOP presidential candidate.
Jenny Sanford said Haley will bring reform to the state where the legislature resists sharing power.
"That power needs to be reformed so we have a more balanced system of checks and balances," she said. "When you have a system like that that is entrenched and resistant to change you are going to have ugly politics and you are going to have an uphill battle."
But she said Haley will have a step up over her former husband, Gov. Mark Sanford, in trying to bring change.
"Unfortunately for the legislators, she has been in the system and they can't say she doesn't know how to work with them," Sanford said.
Haley later was to attend a fundraiser on Hilton Head Island.
One of the tricky things in a runoff is trying to determine where votes for the other two candidates go, said Brian McGee, an expert in political communications at the College of Charleston.
"Are they going to split in predictable ways — in which case Ms. Haley should win relatively easily — or is she the fourth choice for a large number of voters who voted for the other three?" he asked.
At least one Haley supporter doesn't think she will have a problem getting her voters back out Tuesday.
"I'm part of her Facebook page and she's been pushing pretty hard," said Jeremy Greene, 37, who works in information technology for the federal government.
"Most of her campaign has been modern media. I think you're going to get the old guard backing Barrett and the new guard backing Haley," he added.