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Nikki Haley says she backed Marco Rubio over Jeb Bush because of his 'passion'

@PatriciaMazzei

ANDERSON, S.C. -- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has only nice things to say about Jeb Bush

"Jeb is a dear friend," she told reporters Thursday. "He has been a great mentor and has helped me along the way."

Yet she threw her support Wednesday behind Bush opponent Marco Rubio anyway.

"This is not about picking friends," she said. "It's about picking who you think can be the best president." Then she pointed to Rubio. "I saw his fight. I saw his passion. And this is not a job that we can afford for anybody to fall on.

"And so I just wanted to make sure that I put somebody in there that was going to sleep, eat and breathe it every day until we got things right. And so I have a dear, great respect for Jeb."

But does she think Bush can't win?

"It's not about winning. I don’t pick people based on whether they can win or not," Haley said. "I pick people based on the fact that I think they can change our country. I know Marco Rubio can change our country. [If] this is about winners or losers, we all know where we would be," she added, referring to Donald Trump, the one Republican she ruled out as a contender for her endorsement.

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