LEXINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Gov. Nikki Haley got campaign help Thursday from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, an old friend she said played a big part in winning the job in 2010.
For Haley, it was a rare campaign appearance, as she has spent much of this year concentrating on her official duties instead of hitting the trail. It was Bush's first official trip to South Carolina since 2012. The state is critical in the 2016 presidential race because it is the first primary in the South.
Bush gently chastised reporters for asking him about his plans for 2016, saying the midterm elections aren't even here yet.
"I'm a huge fan of your governor. I want to help her," said Bush, whose comments at Hudson's Barbecue were mostly about making sure Republicans did everything they could to take control of the Senate from Democrats.
Haley is facing Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen in a rematch of the 2010 race. Recent polls have given her a double-digit lead.
Haley said she can't thank Bush enough for his help after she decided to run for governor in 2009. She was an unknown state House member facing several better-known candidates.
"I was 'Nikki Who,'" she said. "He said 'Don't listen to the consultants, just shake as many hands as you can. Get in front of as many people as you can.'"
After her election, she called Bush for help putting together a transition team. Bush sent a trusted adviser. She also consulted Bush about plans to improve education.
"He continues to be helpful every time I call," Haley said.
Democrats said Haley and Bush only care for wealthy donors.
"Nikki Haley and Jeb Bush are two peas in a pod today in South Carolina. If Republicans focused half as much on the paychecks going to workers as they do on the checks to fill their campaign coffers, women and their families would be much better off," the state Democratic Party said in a statement.
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