Some big smiles from the night’s big winner

Looking back over the pictures I shot tonight at Vincent Sheheen’s victory party, the thing that strikes me is that I actually have a couple of shots of the normally low-key, unassuming Sheheen with a supercharged, 1,000-watt grin. (C. Aluka Berry, standing right next to me, got an even BIGGER grin over at

And why not? He was the night’s big winner.

Maybe y’all saw this coming; I certainly didn’t. I thought if anybody won all the marbles for a gubernatorial nomination tonight, it would be Nikki Haley. If you look at polls from recent weeks, the trend was up and up for her, at a meteoric pace, with the last poll showing her at 43 percent, with a bullet. By contrast, the best the slow-but-steady Sheheen had shown in a poll was 36 percent. And that was in a three-way race (really, a two-way), while Nikki was posting those numbers pulling away from a field of four.

So it was that I was worried I was driving away from the REAL story tonight by heading over to Camden, but it turns out that’s where the Big Mo of the night was, while Nikki — while posting better than her polling numbers — found herself in a runoff with the lackluster Gresham Barrett (yeah, the guy in the painfully strained, goofy drill sergeant ad).

Republicans will comfort themselves that they had more than twice the turnout, but good Lord, I expected them to do better than THAT. Look at all the hotly contested races they had, at every level. While Democrats (at my polling place, anyway) had the governor’s race, plus a nearly invisible two-way competition for the office they have owned, superintendent of education, and oh yes — they got to choose (yawn) who would get to lose to Jim DeMint in the fall. Y’all know what a hard time I had deciding to forgo having a say in all those GOP contests (and only chose a Democratic ballot in the end because I felt so strongly that Vincent was the right man for governor– and I wanted to cast a positive vote for that office); I’m sure most independent voters (and a few Democrats as well) struggled with that same calculation.

How did Vincent do it? Well, I know what y’all are thinking — it was my last-minute endorsement, and the ad he bought on (You’ll note that Rick Quinn and Seth Rose also came out on top, obviously for the same reason — the ads — and Scott Winburn would have won, but he and Seth couldn’t both do so.)

But I think there were other factors at work, too. I cited some of them last night. And I think Nikki Haley, once she’s done soaking up all this free media of recent days, is going to find Vincent a tough opponent in the long haul. And Vincent is going to find her a really energetic, talented campaigner who will shine on the stump as the uglier memories of this embarrassing GOP primary (which now has two more weeks to go) fade.

This is going to be a great election for our next governor.

16 thoughts on “Some big smiles from the night’s big winner

  1. Ralph Hightower

    Where as everybody in the General Assembly was willing to work with SC Governot Mark Sanford eight years ago, Sanford burned his bridges early on in his first term.

    Nikki Haley has burned her bridges with the House and Senate already before the November election.

    Are we going to get 4 or 8 more years where the General Assembly won’t work with the Governor?

    That’s why South Carolina needs Vincent Sheheen. He is able to work with the House and the Senate.

  2. bud

    Brad, I’m surprised that you’re suprised. I though Sheheen was poling very well of late and the fact that there were only 3 candidates meant the bar was not very high to reach 50%. Still, he did even better than I predicted. Maybe there’s hope.

  3. martin

    The goofy drill sargeant ad was the best anyone had in the campaign.

    It was NOT a candidate blowing their own horn and had some humor to it.

    It was the only one that made me listen and I don’t care for gap toothed Barrett.

  4. Kristin Sinclair

    Wonderful momentum, wonderful to see people be involved in finding solutions to help move our state forward. The people of SC know, we need to change the course, and the path; needs to be positive and steady and provide for the needs of the citizens. The citizens involved in providing input into their future is indeed the foundation that makes the entire system work, for all people. In doing so, the citizens also need to be steady and positive and provide for the needs of the system but in place to provide valid leadership.

    We have mountain and sea, we have fields with beauty and nurturing life all about. We have earth sustaining fabulous trees and fields to bring us healing from the pollutants mankind is so capable of creating. We also have wonderful potential to help make alternative energy sources a reality with the wonderful abundance that our location and terrain make possible.

    We have an educational systems in place with talented professionals who very much want to provide for the continued intellectual growth of our youth. We can bring businesses to our state, which have a goal to help create renewable positive fabulous jobs, careers, create the income stream the people need.

    We have a climate and natural resources to draw additional tourism not only for our beaches, but also, to enjoy bike paths to cross our terrain and help our citizens and our tourists find the joys of what South Carolina has to offer. Our trees and fields and mountains, and streams can help to bring a purity to the air, which can bring in turn a purity of being. A great reason for tourists to enjoy our great location.

    We have culture and a history which is such a wonderful thing to also bring tourist to our state.
    We have a people who love their state, are welcoming, we have a people who want to continue the momentum to be even better. We can accomplish so much by working together.

  5. Paul Zimmerman

    Martin I agree. If I even saw an ad of Vincent’s I don’t remember it.

    The goofy worked although the “liberals hate him” was lame (except that I remember that too).

  6. Boyd Summers

    Big night over in Camden. We have a real opportunity in SC to turn the page on all the recent craziness GOP has brought upon this state. Polls show 39% of primary voters identified with Tea Party. Explains a lot about big Haley win. Huge opening for Vincent to marginalize Haley.

  7. Brad

    Except, Vincent won’t do that — not in those terms. Nikki might marginalize HERSELF if she doesn’t shift emphasis drastically (say, if she doesn’t stop loudly insisting that most of the Republican Party isn’t far enough to the right for her), but it’s hard for me to picture Vincent deliberately trying to demonize her or anybody else.

    Last night some TV news people were trying to get Vincent to talk about all the nastiness in the GOP contest, and he just smoothly moved from that to more positive topics.

    And that’s his strength. He’s not a part of that vicious family feud that’s tearing the Republicans apart. He is the positive, upbeat alternative. He should continue to go with that, and he will.

    Of course, some Democrats won’t be satisfied with that. If I recall correctly, Dick Harpootlian pushed Dwight Drake to run because he didn’t think Vincent would be tough enough on the Republicans. Ironically, Vincent responded to that by very clearly pointing out what was wrong with Dwight as a candidate.

    Vincent won’t shrink away from legitimate criticism of an opponent. But he’ll do it dispassionately, without malice. And somehow a phrase like “huge opening … to marginalize Haley” just doesn’t sound like the way Vincent approaches things…

  8. bud

    Let’s hope that Vincent doesn’t wimp out like so many democrats do when confronted by the likes of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. Even John McCain was skewered by the nastiness of the lunatics on the far right. If Vincent doesn’t respond to the inevitable smear campaign forcefully and with conviction he’s toast. Hopefully he’s up to the task.

  9. bud

    Vincent had a pretty good ad showing people and cars going backwards. The point was he wanted to get SC moving forward again. A bit negative maybe but not nasty.

  10. Doug Ross

    “Vincent won’t shrink away from legitimate criticism of an opponent. But he’ll do it dispassionately, without malice. ”

    The tough job is trying to act like the nice guy while leaving all the dirty work to your campaign staff and acting like you aren’t aware of what they are doing. It’s hard to do.

    Sheheen hasn’t been a target yet. Just wait til he gets the Atwater-style treatment that Republicans are famous for. Actually, he may not get the same treatment because I’m guessing the RINOs who run the state would prefer Sheheen as the figurehead than having to deal with Haley.

  11. martin

    By MEG KINNARD Associated Press Writer

    COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s surprise Democratic nominee to challenge U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint is facing a pending felony charge.

    Court records show 32-year-old Alvin Greene of Manning was arrested in November and charged with showing obscene Internet photos to a University of South Carolina student. The felony charge carries up to five years in prison.

    Greene said he had no comment when asked about the charge Wednesday and hung up on a reporter.

    The unemployed veteran posted bond after his arrest. He has yet to enter a plea or be indicted.

    Records indicate Greene showed photos to a woman and talked about going to her room at a university dorm.

    On Tuesday, Greene stunned state Democratic Party leaders by winning the nomination. He had no organized campaign in his victory over a former state lawmaker.

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    Vincent can marginalize Nikki for precisely the reasons you cite–he’ll take the high road and she’ll take the low road, and he’ll get the attention of the good people of South Carolina.

    Hope and change are not ideas to be dismissed with a snarky sound bite.

  13. Doug Ross


    Sheheen can take the high road as much as he wants but he will still be starting with a significant handicap in the race as a Democrat.

    How many Republicans are going to vote off-party because they think Sheheen is a nice guy? Somebody from his campaign is going to have to paint Haley as the “bad girl” in order to get cross-over voting.

    And don’t discount the number of women who will vote for Haley BECAUSE she is a woman. There are all sorts of demographic groups that she will automatically hold an advantage with.

  14. Brad

    Doug’s absolutely right on that last point, and it’s one of the things that worries me about her. It’s what I was referring to the other day in that post asking people to THINK. Folks who don’t think have all sorts of reasons to vote for her: They feel sorry for her for being picked on. They’re outraged at Jake for what he said. But while those might be perfectly legitimate reasons to get mad — at Will or Larry or Jake — they are NOT logical reasons to make Nikki our governor. And I worry that she has so much EMOTION on her side that she might be unstoppable.

    And voting for her because she’s a woman is yet another emotional, irrational response. An emotional, irrational response that South Carolina can’t afford.

    Some people, such as Michael P., think I must really have it in for Nikki personally. I don’t. I’d love to see her have a wonderful, happy life. But I don’t want her to be governor, and not only because I see her politically analysis as alarmingly shallow and disagree with her about a lot of things (not all things, but a lot of things). The thing is, even by the standards of those who disagree with her, she’d be a HORRIBLE governor. Sanford at least waited to alienate the whole legislature after he was elected; Nikki’s done it in advance. So, you might say, isn’t that good news to me, if her agenda fails? NO! Because what South Carolina needs is not another failed governor constantly bickering with lawmakers and causing all of us to feel hopeless about our prospects of changing anything. We need someone who can effect positive change, because boyoboy do we need it.

    But I’ll tell you who I do have it in for — people who would, for irrational, emotional reasons, repeat the Sanford mistake instead of electing someone who could actually exercise some positive leadership.

  15. Doug Ross

    “The thing is, even by the standards of those who disagree with her, she’d be a HORRIBLE governor. ”

    I think it’s customary in South Carolina to say “Bless her heart!” either before or after a statement like that one. That gives you free rein to denigrate someone.

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