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.
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.