Nikki Haley, the Republican governor of South Carolina who has a libertarian streak, has said she will endorse a candidate in the 2012 Presidential primaries. However, she went out of her way to suggest that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s time had passed, and praised Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Haley Barbour.

Haley’s endorsement will carry significant weight given the state’s prominence in the presidential nominating process. It is slated to be one of the first four states to hold its primary.

That makes her a woman lots of people will want to get to know. And already, she’s spoken with many potential 2012 presidential candidates making swings through her state.

The most likely recipients of Haley’s endorsement would seem to be Palin and Romney, who each endorsed Haley in her long shot 2010 GOP primary campaign. Palin’s endorsement, in particular, gave Haley a shot in the arm at the exact time she needed it, and Haley endorsed Romney in the 2008 presidential campaign.

But Haley insists she’s not favoring anybody in 2012 and won’t engage in any kind of political payback.

“Not at all,” she said. “That is something that I will always be appreciative of and grateful for, but this is not a quid pro quo.”

Haley declined to criticize Romney for a health care bill he instituted as governor of Massachusetts, but she did say that “what governor Romney thought is right for Massachusetts is not right for South Carolina.”

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