When Nikki Haley conceded her deflating third-place defeat within the Iowa caucuses this month, the primary particular person she thanked was almost 8,000 miles away.
“I wish to say to my husband, who’s deployed, who I do know could or is probably not watching this proper now — Michael, I really like you,” she mentioned, standing in entrance of a row of American flags. “What retains me going at night time is that we sleep beneath the identical stars.”
It was an unusually private and nearly saccharine be aware for a politician identified for her powerful exterior. However it was hardly misplaced.
Even in his absence, Maj. Michael Haley, a Nationwide Guardsman serving a voluntary, yearlong deployment in Africa, has performed an outsize position in his spouse’s increasingly lonely try to grab the Republican nomination from former President Donald J. Trump.
In almost each stump speech, Ms. Haley describes her husband and his navy profession as one among her motives for operating. She incessantly refers to his struggles after coming back from a struggle zone in her guarantees to enhance well being look after veterans. She means that his work has knowledgeable her international coverage.
But, regardless of this prominence, Main Haley himself stays one thing of a clean slate. Whereas different candidates’ spouses — with the notable exception of Melania Trump — logged miles across Iowa and New Hampshire final 12 months making an attempt to humanize their other halves, he has averted the extreme scrutiny, in addition to the general public talking, picture ops and interviews, that comes with campaigning.
Those that know him say that is simply as he likes it. A former foster little one who met his spouse when he was 19, Main Haley has largely orbited her ambitions since.
Whereas her profession marched upward, his meandered; he labored for her dad and mom and ran a struggling bartering enterprise earlier than he discovered the navy. Extra lately, he was concerned in a on line casino deal and presently has an ill-defined position with a small protection firm.
Till this 12 months, he has at all times campaigned at her aspect, although largely out of the highlight.
“He’s completely content material as a rock Nikki leans on within the background,” mentioned Rob Godfrey, who labored as a spokesman for Ms. Haley throughout each of her campaigns for South Carolina governor in addition to most of her time in that workplace.
Main Haley hardly ever speaks to the information media, and declined a request for an interview. When requested about his deployment in June, he informed The Related Press that he “can’t assist however to suppose giving one 12 months, together with my fellow troopers, as many have finished earlier than me, to safe a lifetime of freedom for my household, is effectively value all that comes with it.”
Ms. Haley has turned to her husband as “a touchstone on necessary points” at key moments in her profession, Mr. Godfrey mentioned.
Within the days after a racist gunman killed 9 individuals at a traditionally Black church in Charleston, S.C., Ms. Haley determined to push to take away the Accomplice flag from the Statehouse grounds after consulting with Main Haley, Mr. Godfrey mentioned.
“There was no query: Nikki wished to speak to the particular person she trusted essentially the most about what to do,” Mr. Godfrey mentioned.
Main Haley’s politics seem to reflect his spouse’s; previously, he has often taken to social media to criticize her political opponents or Democratic officers.
Associates describe him as a golfer, a soccer fan and an avid hunter who relishes posting photos of alligators he has bagged. The couple’s son, Nalin, a university senior, described his father in an interview with The New York Occasions as a prankster and a lover of “the everyday dad jokes.”
His father watched each debate from Camp Lemonnier, the sprawling navy base in Djibouti the place he’s deployed, Mr. Haley mentioned, and he has a behavior of turning images of his household or his spouse’s workers into memes that he shares on-line. “Typically they’re actually humorous, or they’re actually dangerous,” he mentioned. “There isn’t any in-between.”
Main Haley, 53, didn’t have a simple begin in life. His organic father was an alcoholic who had hassle with the regulation. He spent his earliest years in Ohio, residing in a home that always had no electrical energy or operating water, Ms. Haley wrote in her 2012 ebook, “Can’t Is Not An Possibility.”
His mom suffered a extreme mind harm when he was 3, and Main Haley went to a foster dwelling with two of his sisters, whereas the oldest two siblings have been positioned in one other dwelling.
The subsequent 12 months, he and his youthful sister, Lee Anne, have been adopted by Invoice and Carole Haley. Invoice was the supervisor of a metal mill, and Carole was a schoolteacher. It could be 15 years earlier than Michael tracked down the remainder of his brothers and sisters, Ms. Haley wrote.
Main Haley met his future spouse in faculty, when she was a freshman learning accounting at Clemson College and he was enrolled at Anderson College, a small Christian college close by.
On the time, Main Haley glided by the identical first title as his adoptive father, Invoice. However Ms. Haley recounts in her memoir that quickly after they began courting she informed him, “You simply don’t appear to be a Invoice.” She as an alternative selected to name him by his center title, Michael, and it caught, she wrote.
The couple encountered resistance from Ms. Haley’s dad and mom, who’re Sikh immigrants from India and wished their daughter to marry somebody with the identical faith. However in 1996, two years after he proposed, they married in separate Sikh and Christian ceremonies and ultimately settled in Lexington, S.C.
Each labored for her dad and mom’ clothes enterprise, Exotica Worldwide. Main Haley managed the boys’s put on division, whereas Ms. Haley did the books. As she took to politics, he invested within the bartering franchise. As they raised their two youngsters — Nalin has an older sister, Rena — the household enterprise struggled and cash was tight.
In 2006, when Ms. Haley was a first-term state consultant, Main Haley completed his faculty diploma and shortly thereafter joined the South Carolina Military Nationwide Guard as a 36-year-old second lieutenant, older than most new officers.
The navy gave him a gradual goal and a modest revenue. In 2007, he took a full-time job as a federal navy technician, working in human assets on insurance policies to advertise range within the Guard and shield in opposition to discrimination primarily based on race, gender or incapacity.
Main Haley stayed within the job when he turned the primary gentleman of South Carolina — the state’s first — in 2010, after an unpleasant marketing campaign wherein Ms. Haley was compelled to disclaim accusations of marital infidelity. He used the position to advocate points near dwelling — adjustments to adoption legal guidelines and veteran companies — however saved his focus largely on his household.
“He isn’t a retail politician,” mentioned Ted Pitts, a pal and fellow Guardsman, who can be a former state consultant. “He’s dedicated to the household and places out numerous effort and time to ensure the household is taken care of.”
In 2012, the third deadliest 12 months for U.S. troops throughout the struggle in Afghanistan, Main Haley raised his hand for a mission centered on educating farmers within the nation to develop and promote crops apart from opium. Whereas many Nationwide Guard deployments are obligatory, this one was strictly voluntary, mentioned Dwight Bradham, a retired main who helped oversee the agribusiness workforce’s work.
(When the information of his deployment broke, Ms. Haley took to Fb, posting lyrics to the 1988 ballad by the hair-metal band Poison, “Each Rose Has a Thorn.”)
Main Haley, then a captain, deployed in January 2013 to Helmand Province. Whereas he was not in a fight unit, he did have just a few brushes with roadside bombs. “Individuals had some mind rattle there from the explosions,” mentioned Lt. Col. Scott Ward, who’s now retired however served because the commanding officer of the agricultural mission.
Everybody knew who he was, however he “didn’t sit again and attempt to get particular therapy due to who his spouse is,” Main Bradham mentioned. “He’s a soldier.”
Ms. Haley incessantly describes her husband’s re-entry as tough. “When Michael returned from Afghanistan, loud noises startled him,” Ms. Haley mentioned in an advert launched in December. “He couldn’t be in crowds. The transition was onerous.”
Associates describe Main Haley, who earned a bronze star in Afghanistan, as slipping into his subsequent position with out apparent indicators of stress. When Ms. Haley turned the ambassador to the United Nations in 2017, he joined his spouse at diplomatic occasions and dinners, in addition to on official journeys abroad.
For the reason that couple’s return to South Carolina in late 2018, Main Haley has saved a decrease profile. Associates say he’s carefully concerned in taking good care of Ms. Haley’s dad and mom. Monetary disclosures present that he runs an organization that manages revenue from his spouse’s speeches and ebook gross sales, in addition to a household funding portfolio.
In 2022, The Wall Street Journal reported that he was amongst a number of politically linked figures with stakes in an organization that obtained a share of slot machine income from a tribal on line casino in North Carolina. Others with stakes included John B. Clyburn, a brother of Consultant James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, and Patti Solis Doyle, a Democratic political operative.
Wallace Cheves, a developer who spearheaded the undertaking, mentioned that Main Haley was given his stake in alternate for cybersecurity companies.
“He was a marketing consultant of a marketing consultant that labored with the tribe,” Mr. Cheves mentioned in response to questions.
Monetary disclosures present that he additionally has a stake value as a lot as $500,000 in Allied Protection, an organization registered with the federal authorities as a veteran-owned “navy armored car, tank and tank part manufacturing concern.” However it doesn’t seem to have any federal contracts.
The Haley marketing campaign declined to touch upon Main Haley’s cybersecurity background or to reveal details about his involvement with the protection agency.
Main Haley was deployed once more final June, this time to Djibouti, a base for counterterrorism operations in Africa. He joined the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade as a planning officer for the mission. As a result of he didn’t belong to the unit, it was an project that he would have needed to request, in line with a number of former Guardsmen.
The deployment has meant that he has missed a lot of his spouse’s marketing campaign — her weeks of glad-handing, her standout debate performances, her poor exhibiting in Iowa, her New Hampshire loss and now the extreme stress from fellow Republicans to give up.
“There’s by no means a superb time for a deployment,” Ms. Haley posted on social media after seeing off her husband, together with a number of hundred different troopers, in a ceremony on the Citadel, a navy faculty in Charleston, in June.
“How blessed are we to dwell in a rustic the place women and men are prepared to sacrifice and serve to defend our freedoms?” she wrote.
Jazmine Ulloa and Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed analysis.