Nikki Haley to Endorse Marco Rubio for President

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, will endorse U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for their party's 2016 White House nomination. Randall Hill/Chris Keane/Reuters

(Reuters) - South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, viewed in Republican circles as a possible U.S. vice presidential candidate, will endorse U.S. Senator Marco Rubio for their party's 2016 White House nomination on Wednesday, three days before her state's presidential primary, said a source familiar with the situation.

The daughter of Indian immigrants, Haley, 44, seized the spotlight in January when in the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech she set herself apart from the party's presidential candidates by calling for tolerance on immigration and civility in politics.

Last year she gained national attention by leading an effort to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol grounds after the killing of nine black churchgoers in Charleston. The Civil War-era emblem of the Confederate South is long associated with slavery.

Rubio, 44, from Florida, hopes to get a boost from South Carolina, where Republicans on Saturday hold their third contest after Iowa and New Hampshire to pick a party nominee for the Nov. 8 presidential election.

A campaign aide to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said Haley called Bush, also vying for the party nomination, to inform him of her plan to endorse Rubio.

"Disappointed" was Bush's response to the endorsement. "She's a very good governor and should I win the nomination, there'll be a role for her in the campaign," Bush, 63, told reporters after a campaign event in Summerville, S.C.

Cruz, Trump Clash Anew

Ahead of Saturday's Republican vote, two other White House hopefuls—U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and billionaire Donald Trump—battled for votes with an exchange of harsh words. Cruz, 45, won the first nominating contest in Iowa on Feb. 1 and Trump, 69, the second one in New Hampshire on Feb. 9.

Cruz on Wednesday dared Trump to sue him over a campaign ad featuring a 1999 video clip of the former reality TV star saying he was "very pro-choice" on abortion. In the clip, Trump said he would not ban late-term abortions.

Cruz said Trump sent his campaign a "cease and desist letter" demanding it drop the ad. "File the lawsuit," Cruz, a lawyer, told reporters, adding that he would depose the billionaire himself.

The U.S. Supreme Court rocketed into campaign headlines last Saturday after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Cruz hopes to use the court opening to paint Trump, the Republican front-runner for the nomination, as insufficiently conservative ahead of Saturday's South Carolina vote. Presidents appoint justices to the court, and the U.S. Senate confirms the appointments.

"You have been threatening frivolous lawsuits for your entire adult life," Cruz said of Trump. "Even in the annals of frivolous lawsuits, this takes the cake."

Trump responded that he opposes abortion, which most U.S. conservatives also do not support.

"These ads and statements made by Cruz are clearly desperate moves by a guy who is tanking in the polls—watching his campaign go up in flames finally explains Cruz's logo," Trump said in a statement, referring to the flame icon that appears on Cruz's website and elsewhere.

The billionaire again hinted he might sue Cruz, who was born in Canada to a U.S. citizen mother, over his eligibility to run for president. "Time will tell, Teddy," Trump said.