Nikki Haley surges ahead

The other day, a reader made the following observations about Nikki Haley here on the blog:

For Haley, a bad day. The tea party simply has not caught on. Haley cannot turn the numbers out nor can she draw the bucks in (with the exception of Mark Sanford’s Club for Growth disreputably non-transparent $400k contribution)….

But on Saturday morning, May 15, 24 days out from the primary, Haley is visably collapsing. Mark Sanford’s cash will make an effort to prop her up, but you can stick a fork in her. She’s done.

I thought that reader was dead wrong, and that the opposite was true, but rather than spend time arguing on that thread, I wrote another post in which I went on at great length about how depressing I found her rally with Sarah Palin to be. I felt that I was watching a candidate coming into her own, surging in confidence and energy. (And the depressing thing is that that is bad news for South Carolina, and I sincerely doubted my ability to persuade her supporters of that — they seemed immune to reason.) But it was just a gut thing, based on all my years of experience. I had no way to back it up.

Until now. This just in from Rasmussen:

With South Carolina’s Republican Primary for Governor less than three weeks away, State Representative Nikki Haley, coming off a fresh endorsement by Sarah Palin, now leads the GOP pack.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary voters shows Haley earning 30% support. She’s followed by State Attorney General Henry McMaster who picks up 19% and Congressman Gresham Barrett with 17%. Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer captures 12% of the vote.

Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate in the race, but nearly one-in-five potential primary voters (18%) remain undecided.

The new findings mark a dramatic turn of events for Haley who ran fourth in March with just 12% support.r McMaster earned 21% of the vote at that time, with Bauer at 17% and Barrett at 14%.

Of course, from a national perspective, it would look like the deciding factor was Sarah Palin. But there’s a lot more going on than that. Some reasons why I’m not a bit surprised at these poll numbers:

  • Yes, the Sarah Palin endorsement, which creates excitement among certain strains of the Republican Party. Mrs. Palin had never been to SC, and her coming her to endorse Nikki was bound to create a sensation.
  • The support of ReformSC, the organization that exists to promote the Mark Sanford agenda. These folks have money, and they are determined to continue to hold onto the governor’s office, as evidenced by their expenditure of $400,000 on an ad portraying Nikki as a sort of Joan of Arc of transparent government. A very effective ad, far better than the one TV ad that Nikki actually lays claim to, which is terribly off-putting. And note that this poll was in the field May 17, two days before a judge ordered that ad to be pulled.
  • The Jenny Sanford endorsement (or rather, since Jenny endorsed her sometime back, her active participation of recent days). No, that’s not a positive to me, because I know that Jenny was always the brains behind Mark Sanford and his extreme views. The last thing South Carolina needs is another governor brought to you by Jenny Sanford. But the bizarre thing is that thanks to their family psychodrama, Jenny Sanford’s stock has risen in the public marketplace even as Mark’s has fallen. So having Jenny out there stumping for her is a big plus.
  • All the coverage in recent days of debate in the Legislature about Nikki’s signature issue, roll-call voting. It’s almost like the state Senate were working in cahoots with ReformSC (which I assure you it is not) to keep Nikki in the news in a way that reflects well upon her.
  • Just sheer buzz — based on all of the above, feeding upon itself. This has always been a race in which any one of four candidates could win, and no one was breaking away from the pack. So anyone having this much buzz, generated by all of the above factors, this late in the game, is likely to surge. And I suppose I’ve been adding to it in my own small way — I’ve written more about Nikki the last few days than all the other candidates put together. And the reason why was because I thought she was surging, and scrutiny was warranted.
  • Finally, a change in the candidate herself. Her poise, her confidence, her energy at that Palin rally was something to behold. It was kind of like a scene in “A Star is Born,” or maybe “All About Eve,” in which the shy, demure ingenue suddenly becomes the big star with all the mannerisms of power. This may not have been apparent to most people, but there are two things that made it stand out for me — I knew Nikki when she (VERY recently) emerged onto the scene, and I have a lot of experience watching candidates in person. You get so you can tell when one is on the way up. The aura of confidence, of momentum, is both an effect of rising, and a cause of rising further. Like buzz, confidence feeds on itself.

So now, Nikki Haley is the candidate to beat in the GOP race for governor. And I’m not surprised.

14 thoughts on “Nikki Haley surges ahead

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    “The last thing South Carolina needs is another governor brought to you by Jenny Sanford.”

    Would that that were true…I think Haley is probably a better choice than Andre.

  2. bud

    I wouldn’t get to excited about a Rasmussen poll that includes a Tea Party darling just yet. Nate Silver @ 538 suggests that Rasmussen’s polls have a bias in favor of Tea Party affiliated candidates. I didn’t entirely follow his logic but he used as an example the Kentucky senate race that shows Rand Paul up by 15 points, a total far above what others are polling. Still, Ms. Haley is doing very well right now. Let’s just wait a while before anointing her Queen of SC.

  3. Phillip

    Tomorrow Rasmussen comes out with the Dem numbers. Haley’s ascent is bad news for Sheheen if he emerges as the Dem nominee, as it blunts his age/vigor advantage (obviously that can only go so far, as Andre Bauer is actually an eleven-year-old boy).

    If I were Sheheen I would jujitsu Haley with the Sanford connection, with every ad juxtaposing Haley’s face with the haggard-post-scandal visage of the governor.

  4. Jamie Sanderson

    Forget that crowd all together. The same mold has produced the follies of which we live through in this state. Are you tired already of the same thing for decades? If you had the chance to trade in the beat-up Chevy for a brand new Ford, wouldn’t you? Vincent Sheheen is the only choice – if you want this state to move forward.

  5. Brad

    As I indicated, buzz feeds on itself, and success breeds more success. So it is that the Haley team is wasting no time trying to capitalize on this new buzz:


    “Haley Jumps Ahead.” That’s this morning’s headline from Rasmussen Reports, a highly-respected, independent polling firm.

    Rasmussen just released their new poll showing Nikki in first place with 30% support in the race for governor, besting her nearest opponent by 11 points. It’s a huge jump from March when the same poll showed Nikki pulling only 12%.

    This is a huge boost for us because it confirms what you’ve always known – that Nikki is the only true conservative reformer in this race who can bring about real change in Columbia. It comes on the heels of several good weeks for the campaign. From the endorsements of Governor Palin and former South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford to the backing of newspapers in the Third Congressional District to the release of our new television ad this week, our campaign is in the strongest position we’ve ever been.

    But we cannot rest on our laurels. Nikki is poised to make the runoff and take this election, but with our momentum will come new attacks and misrepresentations about her record from our opponents. Like Nikki has said before, career politicians and Columbia insiders are running scared because they know she’s the only candidate willing to bring accountability and transparency to the status quo.

    We need your support now more than ever. Please dig deep in these last few weeks and contribute to the campaign. The contribution limits are $3,500 per individual and per business, but any amount you can give will help us push Nikki across the finish line.

    You can make a contribution here, or put a bumper sticker on your car and put a yard sign in your yard here. Every little bit goes a long way.

    As always, thanks for all you’ve done and all you’re going to do. Together, we can and will change South Carolina forever.


    Tim Pearson

    P.S. – We need your support now more than ever before! Please consider donating $3,500, $2,000, $1,000, $500, $100 or $50 by clicking here. You can get a bumper sticker, tshirt, and yard sign here and volunteer your time here .
  6. Steve Gordy

    While I haven’t much sympathy with Haley’s approach to government, it would do my contrarian heart good to watch the good-ole-boy block in the General Assembly tie itself in knots dealing with a female governor.

  7. jfx

    Haley’s star rises, SC’s star falls.

    Nomination for sale! Price? Endorsement of hair-brained half-term ex-governor of Alaska, plus Club For Growth check (I’m surprised CFG doesn’t pay in Monex gold doubloons).

    It’s entirely possible that, in this irrational environment of empty anti-government boilerplate, our next governor will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Sanford, Inc. This virus is a persistent and effective mutagen.

    “Meet the new boss! Same as the old boss!”

  8. Matt

    Brad, you’re right about Haley having the “buzz factor” going on. As I think I said on another blog post, I like to gauge a candidate’s strength based on what the “regular folks” think about them–the people out there living the normal suburban lives who don’t follow politics 24/7 like you or I do. They know enough to be good voters, but they don’t spend their free time at Silver Elephants or political fundraisers. And among this demographic, Nikki Haley seems to be very, very appealing! Of course it’s all anecdotal, but just a “feel” that I get.

  9. Pat

    I don’t believe this poll. The people supporting her supported Mark Sanford. They planted his name, talked him up for president. He was still “Sanford Who?” until he went to Argentina. It’s all manipulation of the media.

  10. martin

    “good voters”…the ones who brought us Mark, twice, Andre, twice, Wilson, DeMint and that bunch of bozos in the legislature?

    Oh, yeah, we should have a lot of confidence in the judgement of the South Carolina voter.

  11. Kathryn Fenner

    “who don’t follow politics 24/7 like you or I do. They know enough to be good voters”

    You don’t have to follow politics 24/7 to be a good voter, but I have to say that if you think Sarah Palin is a good candidate, you do not, by definition, know enough to be a good voter.

    In the paper today, Larry Sabato said that voters think women candidates don’t cheat on their spouses. What if it were discovered that that is not always true–that a female candidate had had an affair?

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