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Gov. Nikki Haley criticizes GOP, says Trump's election was 'not an affirmation' of Republicans

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) speaks at the Federalist Society's 2016 National Lawyers Convention in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/Mark Wilson)

South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, whose name has been floated for secretary of state in coming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, tried to distance the GOP from the Manhattan billionaire's campaign Friday.

"If we as Republicans are going to lead effectively and have staying power as a governing party, we must accept that Donald Trump's election was not an affirmation of the way Republicans have conducted themselves," Haley told those gathered at a Federalist Society convention.

"The president-elect deserves tremendous credit for the way he was able to connect with the electorate," she continued. "But he did not do it by celebrating the Republican Party, and the American people did not vote for him because he had an 'R' next to his name."

While Haley admitted that she hadn't been a supporter of Trump at the beginning, she also had criticism for the Republican Party.

Voters, she told the lawyers gathered at the convention, rejected the political elite during this year's election — including Republicans: "And we had no one to blame but ourselves. There have been broken promises at every level of government."

On her criticisms of her party, Haley added:

We saw a Republican Congress that kept levels of spending completely out of control. We saw Republican elected officials move to expand Medicaid instead of working to find real solutions to our health care problems. We saw Republicans start to move toward big government instead of away from it with things like Common Core.

Republicans lost our way.

We were told that if we elected a Republican House and a Republican Senate, everything would change. Millions of people worked hard to give Republicans that chance, yet we never saw action.

"Republicans ignored the growing anger and frustration that was building among the American people. They were watching their paychecks shrink, their student loans grow, their daily lives become more difficult -- and all they saw was Washington, D.C., with Republicans continuing to blame Democrats," Haley added.

Now that Republicans also control the House and Senate -- and there are more Republican governors now than ever -- Haley contended that lawmakers in her party should "look in the mirror and remember who we are" and take action.

And as for the coming Trump administration, Haley admonished the president-elect to preserve and expand the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's "legacy of judicial restraint."

"Government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people," Haley said. "It was never intended to be all things for all people. Sadly, we've strayed away from that course in America today."

Haley met with Trump in Manhattan Thursday about a possible Cabinet position, including secretary of state, multiple sources with Trump's transition team confirmed.

Trump's team has floated a variety of potential appointees to lead the State Department — including 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani — and it is unclear where Haley stands on Trump's list.

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