Nikki Haley to GOP: 'We need to listen more'

S.C. Governor: Flag "never should have been there"
Confederate Flag removed from S.C. Statehouse _00030816

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Story highlights

  • Haley addressed the Republican National Committee's summer meeting
  • "You learn to think like them. You learn what they feel. Politics is personal," she said

Cleveland (CNN)South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley spoke at length Thursday on the lessons she learned from the high profile Confederate flag battle in her state earlier this summer, saying Republicans need to get better at listening.

Just hours before the GOP presidential debate in Cleveland, Haley, who's considered a potential vice presidential contender, addressed an influential group of Republicans down the street at the Republican National Committee's summer meeting.
In an onstage exchange with RNC chairman Reince Priebus, Haley said it's "easy to be divisive" in politics but argued "it's courageous to put yourself in the other person's shoes."
    "You learn to think like them. You learn what they feel. Politics is personal," she said. "But in order for us to get people to understand where we're coming from, we have to see where they're coming from."
    Following the Charleston church shooting that left nine black parishioners dead at the hand of a white shooter, Haley joined a chorus of cries to remove the Confederate flag from the state's capitol grounds and helped lead Republicans to rally behind the effort.
    The push faced opposition from those who defended the flag as a memorial to ancestors lost in the Civil War who fought for the Confederacy, but Haley said "what they also found out was the hurt and pain" associated with the flag.
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    "The lesson that I hope we as Republicans learn is that we are perceived as very hard and cold, and we know we're not, but how are we showing that? The best way for us to show it is to listen," she said. "And that's what I took, is we need to listen more."
    The Republican Party has stepped up its minority voter outreach since Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, when he won only 6% of the African-American vote and 27% of the Hispanic vote. Focusing on issues like poverty, criminal justice reform, and racial tension, Republicans have tried to broaden their base.
    But Democrats repeatedly point back to issues like voter ID laws passed by Republican legislatures and governors that critics say disproportionately affect minority communities. Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and Democrats used the occasion to blast Republicans over their support for laws requiring an ID to vote.
    Proponents of those laws, however, argue that they prevent fraud. Haley said after the flag was taken down, reporters started asking her whether she thought such laws were racist.
    "I don't think voter ID is racist. I never have," she said. "What I do think is everybody deserves to prove who they are. And if we have to show ID to get Sudafed, if we have to show an ID to get on a plane, I want everyone to have that right to be able to show an ID to do the one thing we value, which is to vote."