Category Archives: 2010 Governor

SC Dems are whistling ‘Dixie’ past own graveyard

The headline in the paper over the weekend said, “S.C. Democrats: ‘We’re coming back'”:

S.C. Democrats still are smarting from a brutal November that stripped them of one of their two congressional seats, their only statewide office and a handful of General Assembly seats.

But, after some serious post-election number crunching, the state party contends Palmetto State Democrats fared better than Democrats in other states — whose candidates were clobbered by wide margins, too — and actually grew their ranks, laying the groundwork for a comeback.

“We’ve grown our base. These new numbers show we’re not dead and done like some people say,” said Jay Parmley, director of the S.C. Democratic Party. “Yes, we lost everything, but we’re coming back.”…

And what that headline tells us is, SC Democrats are delusional.

Oh, I’m not saying that it’s impossible that some new megatrend that has not yet been spotted by anyone could begin a reversal of the process that started in 1964, when Strom Thurmond joined the Republican Party, and white folks across the state started following him — first in a trickle, then in an accelerating flood.

What I’m saying is that there is no evidence extant at this time to believe that the Democrats are reversing nearly five decades of history trending against them in this state.

Certainly not the main “evidence” the optimists, whistling past their own partisan political graveyard, cite.

Vincent Sheheen’s strong showing is by no means a good sign for Democrats. Vincent Sheheen didn’t do that well because he was a Democrat. He did that well in spite of being a Democrat.

Vincent Sheheen was obviously a stronger candidate, who would clearly have been a better governor, than Nikki Haley. This could not be hidden from SC voters. They liked him better. But he lost, barely, because there are so many white folks in this state who would rather poke themselves in the eye with a sharp stick than pull the lever for a Democrat. His being a Democrat was therefore a huge liability.

If he had NOT been a Democrat — if he and Nikki had both run as Republicans, or if voters had somehow been kept ignorant of the party identification of the two candidates or, if you’ll allow me to dream (and Lord, hasten the day!), no candidate had had ANY party label — then he would have won.

This was obvious. Other statewide Republican candidates, in this huge year for Republicans nationally (and if you will recall, Nikki did everything she could to make the campaign national, running against Barack Obama instead of Vincent Sheheen, who was more likable than she) won in landslides. We’re talking double-digit margins. As I wrote right after the election:

It was so evident that Nikki was the voters’ least favorite statewide Republican (yes, Mick Zais got a smaller percentage, but there were several “third party” candidates; Frank Holleman still got fewer votes than Vincent). I look at it this way: Mark Hammond sort of stands as the generic Republican. Nobody knows who he is or what he does, so he serves as a sort of laboratory specimen of what a Republican should have expected to get on Nov. 2, 2010, given the prevailing political winds. He got 62 percent of the vote.

Even Rich Eckstrom — and this is truly remarkable given his baggage, and the witheringly negative campaign that Robert Barber ran against him — got 58 percent

Oh, for those of you who don’t know, Mark Hammond is the secretary of state. Voters, by and large, don’t know that. All they knew was that he was labeled “Republican.”

That Nikki Haley, with her 51 percent, didn’t come anywhere close to their margins testified to voter discomfort with her (as opposed to a generic Republican like Hammond), and to the strength of her opponent (because SOME of those voters who went for the GOP in every other race voted for Vincent).

If she hadn’t had an R after her name, and he hadn’t had a D, he would be governor now.

And Democrats who say otherwise are fooling themselves.

A pre-session legislative discussion

CRBR Publisher Bob Bouyea, Chamber President Otis Rawl, Rep. James Smith, Sen. Joel Lourie, Rep. Nathan Ballentine. In the foreground is former Rep. Elsie Rast Stuart, now chairwoman of the the Richland-Lexington Airport Commission. / grainy phone photo by Brad Warthen

I meant to post about this yesterday, when it happened, but better late than never.

ADCO had a table at the Columbia Regional Business Report‘s (that’s the outfit Mike Fitts is with) “Legislative Lowdown” breakfast at Embassy Suites. It was a good table. Lanier and I were joined by Alan Kahn, Jay Moskowitz, Bob Coble, Butch Bowers, Cameron Runyan and Grant Jackson.

We were there to hear a discussion by a panel featuring Otis Rawl from the state Chamber, Rep. James Smith, Sen. Joel Lourie, Rep. Nathan Ballentine and Rep. Chip Huggins. Joel was a few minutes late, and Chip had to leave just as Joel arrived, but it was still a good discussion.

Here’s Mike’s description of the event, in part (I’d quote the whole thing, but I don’t know how Mike’s cohorts feel about that Fair Use thing):

By Mike Fitts
Published Dec. 2, 2010

Lawmakers speaking at the Business Report’s Power Breakfast this morning said they see major difficulties ahead in the new budget year, but they also said there are new opportunities for bipartisanship.

The event, hosted at the Embassy Suites, featured Reps. Nathan Ballentine, R-Chapin, Chip Huggins, R-Columbia, and James Smith, D-Columbia; Sen. Joel Laurie, D-Columbia; and Otis Rawl, president and CEO of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce.

With a new Legislature and new governor coming to Columbia in January, much of the discussion focused on the budget crisis that will greet them.

Ballentine, a member of Gov.-elect Nikki Haley’s fiscal crisis task force, drew a stark picture of the challenges facing lawmakers. Ballentine compared the situation to a lifeboat with a limited number of seats. There won’t be enough dollars to take care of students, the elderly, the disabled and law enforcement, Ballentine said.

“Somebody’s going to get left out, and that’s going to hurt,” he said…

To Mike’s focused report I will add the following random observations:

  • I don’t know if this would have been the case if Chip Huggins had stayed, but the general consensus, or at least lack of overt conflict, between James, Joel and Nathan on issue after issue was quite noticeable. Nathan alluded to it, saying he was sure that the business people in the room were probably wondering why a pair of Democrats and a close ally of Nikki Haley were agreeing about issue after issue. (And some of the agreements were remarkable, going beyond mere civility, such as when Nathan volunteered his acknowledgement of the problems with Act 388.) Nathan further speculated that the audience might reasonably wonder why, in light of what they were hearing, the General Assembly had so much trouble getting anything done. He explained that the reason was that there were these 167 other people in the Legislature… And he was completely right. If we filled the Assembly with Jameses, Joels and Nathans, South Carolina would see a Golden Age of enlightened governance. These are reasonable young men who, despite their disagreements on some points are reasonable, deal with others in good faith, and truly want what’s best for South Carolina, and want it more than their own advancement or the good or their respective parties. If only their attitude were catching.
  • I’ll add to that point the observation that if all discourse about issues were on the intellectual level of this one, we’d see a very different, and much better, South Carolina. The conversation was wonderfully devoid of partisan, ideological, bumper-sticker cliches. For instance, I never heard anyone mention “growing government” or “taking back our state.” Observations were relevant, practical, and free of cant. I used to hear discussions like that regularly when I sat on the editorial board, because intelligent politicians did us the courtesy of leaving the meaningless catch-phrases behind. It was good to hear that kind of talk again. (It occurs to me that the fact that over the years I’ve been privileged to hear politicians at their best, trying to sound as smart as possible, may help to explain why I don’t have as jaded a view of officeholders as Doug and others do.) I’d be inclined to say that the discussion was on this level because the lawmakers were paying this assembly the same compliment of respect — but these particular lawmakers pay everyone that sort of respect. Which is why we need more like them.
  • Otis Rawl, incidentally, was slightly more confrontational — something you don’t usually see in a Chamber leader. He exuded the air at times of being impatient with the air of civil agreement in the room. When Nathan said that he had not realized when he voted for it the harm that Act 388 would cause — Otie challenged him directly, saying he knew good and well that his group had informed lawmakers ahead of time, and there was no excuse for anyone to claim innocence (I think he’s right in the aggregate — the body as a whole knew better, but ignored what they knew it order to scratch a political itch — but if Nathan says he didn’t understand, I believe him; he was a relatively inexperienced lawmaker at the time; and I appreciate greatly that he’s learned from experience). Awhile back, I chided Otie for not being more frank about what he thought on an issue. The Otis Rawl I saw Thursday morning could not be chided for the same thing. I suspect this reflects a growing dissatisfaction with Sanford-era fecklessness in the State House, which helped lead to the Chamber’s endorsement of Vincent over Nikki.
  • Speaking of Vincent, Nikki, Otie, James, Nathan and Joel … It struck me as interesting, just because language and civility interest me, that everyone speaking of Nikki Haley referred to her carefully as “Governor-Elect Haley.” It was notable partly because it was stilted coming from people who know her quite well as “Nikki,” but also because (and this might have been my imagination) there was a slight change of tone when the speakers said it, a shift to a formality mode. It seemed natural enough that the Democrats present would use that highly formal construction — it’s important to them (particularly since the two Democrats in question are Vincent Sheheen’s two best friends in the General Assembly) to sound scrupulously neutral and respectful in this post-election period. It’s a way of papering over their feelings about her election, and perfectly proper. It was also perfectly appropriate for Nathan to refer to her that way; it just sounded odder coming from him. They were seatmates, and allies in her fights with the leadership. But being a gentleman, he wasn’t going to top it the nob in a public setting by assuming excessive familiarity. Bottom line, just over a month ago ALL of them would have called her “Nikki.” But now they are the very pictures of proper Southern gentleman. Which I like. But then I’d like to see a return of the sort of manners I read about in Patrick O’Brian and Jane Austen. We just don’t see that very often nowadays.
  • As civil and intelligent as this discussion was (in fact, probably because it was so intelligent), it offered little hope for the General Assembly effectively dealing with any of the important issues facing our state in the foreseeable future. Everyone spoke with (cautious, on the part of the Democrats) optimism about Nikki — excuse me, Gov.-elect Haley — being able to work better with the Legislature than Mark Sanford has (a pitifully low bar). But I heard little hope offered that this, or anything else, would likely lead to the reforms that are needed. The institutional and ideological resistance to, say, comprehensive tax reform is just too powerful. The most hope Joel Lourie would offer is that steady pressure over a long period of time might yield some small progress. He cited as an example his and James’ long (eight-year) battle to get a sadly inadequate cigarette tax increase. The terrible truth, though, is that the cigarette tax was such a no-brainer — it shouldn’t have taken two days, much less eight years — that if IT took that long, much less simple and obvious reform seems unlikely in our lifetimes. But perhaps I’m not being as optimistic as I should be. It’s just that I’ve been fighting these battles, and hearing these same issues discussed, for so very long…

Another stand-alone governor? Let’s hope not

Photo by Gerry Melendez/The State

In the newspaper biz, a “stand-alone” is a picture that has no story with it. I’m still looking back at Tuesday night, and pondering a photo that embodies another sense of “stand-alone”…

As we were waiting… and waiting, and waiting… for Nikki Haley’s victory speech that night, someone in the WIS studio wondered aloud why Henry McMaster was the one killing time at the podium (actually, he was introducing her, but we didn’t realize that at first). Well, who else would it have been? said I. He was the only member of the GOP establishment to have embraced her — her only primary opponent to play a positive, prominent role in her campaign. That’s Henry; he’s Old School. If it’s his party’s nominee, he’s behind her, 100 percent.

So who else would introduce her?

And then I thought no more about it. My mind turned to how low-energy and off-key her subsequent speech was. (Something Cindi Scoppe apparently disagrees with, since she wrote, “She made a good start with her victory speech.“)

It was only when I looked at the photos later (and these photos are from The State, where you can find both a Nikki victory gallery and a Sheheen concession gallery) that I thought about the extreme contrast. There was Vincent, with a broad array of people loyally, warmly supporter him in his hour of defeat — while aside from Henry, Nikki stood alone (I’m not counting family; both candidates had that).

First the delay. Then she comes out alone, without political allies, then she delivers that less-than-enthusiastic speech. What was going on?

I don’t know, but I hope it doesn’t stay like this. We’ve had 8 years of a stand-alone governor, and a governor standing alone can’t accomplish anything in this state, for good or for ill.

We’d all be better off if more people were willing to stand with our governor. Of course, it would help if she acted like she wanted them to. And that’s the thing, isn’t it? The sort of person with whom more people are willing to stand, and who is willing to stand with more people, is the sort of person that, well, more people want to stand with. That made me dizzy. Let me read it again — yep, that’s what I meant to say…

Photo by C. Aluka Berry/The State

Nikki’s business meeting in Greenville

Still haven’t heard from anyone who attended Nikki’s meeting today to shore up her business relations, but The Greenville News took a stab at finding out what happened at a similar meeting up their way.

An excerpt:

Republican gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley has met privately at least twice with Greenville business leaders and assured them she would seek a better relationship with lawmakers than Gov. Mark Sanford, her political ally, and would champion economic development more fully than he has.
Haley arranged the meetings – including one here Tuesday and a similar one in Columbia today – at a time when some business leaders, long disappointed with Sanford, are considering whether to take a cue from the state Chamber of Commerce and rally behind Haley’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.
The first question for Haley at Tuesday’s meeting at The Loft at Soby’s was whether she would govern as Sanford has, said Lewis Gossett, president of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.
Haley “basically made the point that she would be her own person,” said Gossett, who lives and works in Columbia but stopped by the meeting while in Greenville for a personal appointment.
Gossett said members of the manufacturers’ alliance have been “frustrated” with Sanford and “want to know are we going to see a spirit of cooperation in Columbia?” He said some of the alliance’s members support Haley and some Sheheen.
Trav Robertson, spokesman for the Sheheen campaign, said Haley would indeed govern like Sanford, who Robertson said tried to derail plans for Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research when he first took office in 2003.
“Who carried Sanford’s water in the Legislature? It was Nikki Haley,” Robertson said. “Who was the first person Nikki Haley thanked when she won the nomination? Mark Sanford. So make no mistake. It’s one and the same.”
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said business people in the Upstate were interested in meeting Haley and it was natural for her to meet with them.

On the one hand, I’m almost inclined to excuse these secret meetings on the grounds that a lot of business people won’t show and say what they really think in a public forum.

But then I think, NAAAHHHH. No way should Ms. Transparency get away with this, and here’s why: According to this story, she’s telling these business people how normal and cooperative and constructive she’ll be in working with lawmakers, unlike her mentor Mark Sanford. She’s saying things sufficiently reassuring that some are coming away deciding to back her.

For her to say things that would be persuasive to sensible, pragmatic business people (who are fed up with that ideological firebrand Gov. Sangfroid), it seems to me that she would have to say things that are pretty different from what she says in front of her Tea Party fans. With them, she definitely doesn’t say, “No way I’ll be like Mark Sanford.”

But doing it in private allows her to get away with that.

Nikki “means business” — but business backs Vincent

Wow. After having won the nomination on a wave of Tea Party extremism, the Nikki Haley campaign is trying rather desperately — and transparently — to portray her as “conservative” in the actual, traditional, conservative sense of the word.

So it is that I got this release from Nikki a few minutes ago:

I wanted to write you a quick note about National Review’s latest article on Nikki’s incredible primary victory and message of conservative reform focused on creating a pro-business, accountable government that’s truly working for the people of this state. Take a moment to read a few excerpts below…

National Review: She Means Business

South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley is a chamber of  commerce conservative…

And so forth and so on…

Hmmm. Nikki “is a chamber of commerce conservative”? Really?

No, not really. Because the SC Chamber of Commerce is backing Vincent Sheheen.

Perhaps the National Review meant that she was “Chamber of Commerce-ish,” or “Chamber of Commerce-like,” or “Chamber of Commercesque.”

But you know what? Not even that would wash. Here’s what Nikki’s campaign had to say about the actual, real-world Chamber of Commerce in reaction to its endorsement of Vincent:

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina business leaders are sticking with a decision not to endorse state GOP gubernatorial nominee Rep. Nikki Haley as her campaign Wednesday called the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce “a big fan of bailouts and corporate welfare.”

In case you don’t keep up with these things, that’s not the way “a chamber of commerce conservative” talks. That’s the way you talk when you’re the darling of the anti-establishment Tea Party.

Show us transparency, Nikki: Release the e-mails

Did you see the strong editorial in The State Sunday, challenging Nikki “Transparency” Haley for hiding behind a loophole in FOI specifically carved out to protect legislators, and legislators alone, from transparency in order to keep her state-issued e-mail secret?

I was very glad to see it. As the edit pointed out, this isn’t about Will Folks or disgusting sex allegations. Neither The State‘s editorial board nor I expect to find anything about that if we ever see those e-mails. But the fact that this started with such accusations creates a smoke screen that lets Nikki get away with a flagrant flouting of the principles she lets on to hold most dear. From the heart of the editorial:

Ms. Haley, after all, is not just someone who thinks government transparency is a nice thing. Her one claim to fame as a legislator is her crusade to bring sunlight to a legislative process that for too long has protected lawmakers from accountability rather than giving the voters information they deserve. Her entire campaign for governor is built on that push for openness, for letting the public in on the Legislature’s secrets, for eliminating the special perks and privileges legislators give themselves and their friends.

Does that apply only to the direct expenditure of public money?

Does it apply only to other people?

Imagine if the blogger had claimed that he helped Rep. Haley secretly funnel millions of tax dollars into a green-bean museum and steer tens of millions more in cushy no-bid contracts to her campaign donors, and that messages on her government e-mail account would back up his claim. Is there anyone who would not be demanding that she make the correspondence public?

What is she hiding? Why doesn’t she want us to see the messages she has been sending as she juggled her campaign for governor with doing her job as a legislator?

It is not Ms. Haley’s job to disprove unsubstantiated allegations. It is, however, her job to prove that her commitment to ushering in government transparency and ushering out special legislative privileges is sincere — even more since it has been called into question before. She still hasn’t explained what she did to earn more than $40,000 in consulting fees from a government contractor that hired her for her “good contacts.”

If Ms. Haley were governor, we already would have seen her e-mails, because what governors write on their government e-mail accounts is public record. In fact, Gov. Mark Sanford’s attorney saw fit to turn over some e-mails from his personal account, because she determined that he was using it to discuss public business.

If Ms. Haley were the president of the University of South Carolina, we already would have seen her e-mails. Ditto if she were a $30,000-a-year clerk in the bowels of the bureaucracy, because what nearly all state employees write on their government e-mail accounts is public record.

The only reason her public e-mail correspondence has remained hidden is that she is a legislator, and legislators have written themselves a special exemption to the Freedom of Information Act.

This exemption is the very epitome of the secrecy that Ms. Haley vows to eliminate.

I’m glad to see this now. Because at some point, someone was going to point out this obvious inconsistency and raise a stink about it. My concern has been that it would happen in late October, thereby engendering another tidal wave of protective emotion that would sweep Rep. Haley to victory.

The time to address this is now, when there’s time to be calm. Time to see that she cannot possibly have any legitimate excuse not to share these state-sponsored communications.

What is she hiding, indeed? For all I know, absolutely nothing. But then I don’t know, because she’s hiding it, in a stunning display of contempt for the ideals she says she stands for.

Maybe Nikki will teach Democrats a lesson

Thought I’d start a separate discussion based on a subthread back on the post about Nikki Haley on the cover of Newsweek.

Phillip, reaching for the bright side of the national MSM’s superficial coronation of Nikki because she’s an Indian-American woman, wrote:

Maybe this is all for a larger good. Even if I disagree with almost everything Haley or Tim Scott stand for, if this means the GOP is now abandoning the “Southern Strategy” of the Helms-Thurmond-Atwater variety, that can only be a healthy thing, for the party and for the country (and region).

Another way of putting it is that soon, racists and bigots in the South will have no one to vote for. That can only mean there’s fewer and fewer of them, and that, electorally speaking, they matter less and less.

And Kathryn chimed in, “Nice thought, Phillip–from your mouth to our ears!”

This little burst of liberal feelgoodism set me off in a way that again illustrates how impatient I am with both liberals and conservatives, even when they are respected friends such as Phillip and Kathryn:

Nice thought, but it hardly makes up for the hard reality. I’m moved to quote the last line of The Sun Also Rises: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

You want to hear a dark spin on Phillip’s rosy scenario? It’s all well and good for racism to have nowhere to go, and it’s fine for you to moralize about those awful racist Republicans becoming better. But here’s the other side of that: Maybe after she’s elected and we have another four, if not eight, years of Mark Sanford largely because the national media couldn’t see past being thrilled over an Indian-American woman, liberals in South Carolina (liberals elsewhere won’t notice because they don’t give a damn about SC, except as a source of their occasional amusement) will think, “Maybe this identity politics thing isn’t such a wonderful thing after all.”

Now that would be tremendous. But you know what? I’ve waited through too many 4-year chunks of wasted time in South Carolina to go through another such period just so that Republicans can be more ideologically correct and Democrats can wise up a little. It’s not worth it. Change these things about the parties, and other objectionable idiosyncrasies will simply expand to take their places, because parties are schools for foolishness.

This positive name recognition in Newsweek and elsewhere, which doesn’t go more than a micrometer deep (an Indian-American woman! in the South! Swoon. End of story) is going to make her unstoppable — until the narrative changes in some way.

If the South Carolina MSM will do its job and ask the hard questions (OK, Ms. Transparency, where are those PUBLIC e-mails, which you are hiding behind a special exemption from FOI laws that lawmakers carved out for themselves? Any more $40,000 deals to buy your “good contacts” that you haven’t seen fit to disclose?), maybe the national media, the media that people in SC are much more pervasively exposed to, will notice. Maybe. Maybe. Isn’t it pretty to think so?

The Newsweek endorsement of Nikki Haley

Oh, you say it’s not an endorsement? Don’t bore me with semantics. As I said, the national media — not giving a damn one way or the other about South Carolina, or about who Nikki Haley really is or what she would do in office — is enraptured at the idea that South Carolina will elect a female Indian-American (Bobby Jindal in a skirt, they think, fairly hugging themselves with enthusiasm), which just may be the most extreme example of Identity Politics Gone Mad that I’ve seen.

I told you we would have to expect this. And this is just the beginning.

This actually goes beyond an endorsement. This is a declaration that this woman IS our future. She IS the Face of the New South, and no one dare say her nay, least of all that — what’s his name? — the Democratic nominee. You know, the Catholic Lebanese-American — but who cares about that, right?

And if you think their excitement about her goes any deeper than that, you are not very familiar with the MSM.

But we are the ones who will have to live with what the national MSM is trying to ordain, the narrative that they have adopted and are extremely unlikely to deviate from. She may have come to their attention as the result of alleged scandal, but the narrative has adapted that as merely an example of how far the Dark Atavistic Forces of Reaction will go to stop their new darling.

The only good thing about this is that the national media is so ubiquitous that someone out there will raise questions. They will say, OK, if those allegations were lies, why doesn’t she — the supposed champion of transparency — want to release her public e-mail records, but instead hides behind an exemption to DUI law specifically carved out to protect lawmakers (you know, those awful Bubbas who fight so hard to resist transparency!). Or maybe they will take a look at those videos in which she obsequiously courts the neo-Confederate vote. Or maybe they’ll ask what other little consulting deals she might have had aside from that $40,000 from a company wanting access to her “good contacts.”

But those won’t make the headlines. They won’t supplant or derail the master narrative.

Newsweek has staged its coronation. Watch for other media to follow.

Will GOP be willing to come back together?

The Republican Party theoretically has all the advantages looking toward November, in the gubernatorial election as well as in others: After all, more than twice as many people took a Republican ballot yesterday as voted in the Democratic. Even though she didn’t win her primary outright the way Vincent Sheheen did, Nikki Haley still got a lot more votes than he did. Her 49 percent represented more than 204,000 votes. Sheheen’s 59 percent represented only 110,000.

And the embarrassment over the winner of the Dems’ primary for U.S. Senate shows that’s a party that still has a way to go to get its act together.

But if the GOP continues to be as bitterly divided as it has been lately, if she can’t put all the bickering behind her, that advantage could melt away as Republican get discouraged and stay home, and independents move toward the more upbeat, unifying figure of Vincent Sheheen.

If history is the only guide, she has nothing to worry about: Republicans ALWAYS put their differences behind them after the primary.

But will they this year?  I mean, seriously, have you ever seen it get this nasty before? And not even because of anything any of the candidates did. But the things that were done around them — the words of Will Folks, Larry Marchant and Jake Knotts, and the accusations and counter-accusations that came in response to what they said — revealed some bitter fissures that seem unlikely to heal easily.

Will the mainstream Republicans who have been so roundly criticized by Nikki actually line up behind her? I mean, her campaign from the start has been from the beginning more of a crusade against them than against Democrats. One is reminded of Democrat Pug Ravenel, who in 1974 called the Establishment Democrats who ran the Legislature a “den of thieves” — in response to which they took him to court and had him stripped of his nomination and dropped down the memory hole, a series of events that led a fed-up electorate to choose the first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

I find myself remembering something else closer to the present day. In 2002, Mark Sanford won a bitter runoff campaign to become the GOP nominee. I was greatly gratified over that, and pretty disgusted with the mainstream Republicans who had run a campaign that I felt sometimes went outside the bounds. (If you’ll recall, I strongly supported Sanford at the time. I thought he was the kind of good-government advocate that Nikki portrays herself as today.) Well, he showed them, right?

But as unpleasant as the campaign was, immediately after the runoff — I’m remembering it as the next day or so — leading Republicans from throughout the state, representing all his primary opponents, gathered on a dais outside of party headquarters for a big kiss-and-make-up ceremony at which they pledged their undying loyalty, and their unflagging efforts to get him elected in the fall. I was struck by some of the people who showed up — even Glenn McConnell, who doesn’t give governors of either party the time of day normally (McConnell’s party is the Senate more than the GOP).

I was there, and I wanted to talk to Sanford for something I was working on, but didn’t get a chance to talk to him. I did run into Jenny, and asked her to give him the message that I was looking for him. He called me later on his mobile from a car leaving town.

I said something like, “That was some event, huh? They’re really lining up behind you.” And while I don’t have the exact words in front of me, he said something life, “Yeah, well. I suppose one has to do those kinds of things.” He was MIGHTILY bored, and his voiced just dripped contempt for these former rivals who had showed up to promise to fight for him. He obviously saw himself as someone apart from and above the whole GOP solidarity thing.

Now, you know, I can’t stand political parties, and I think party loyalty is one of the most harmful forces in American politics — it fosters intellectual dishonesty, requiring that adherents always agree with the most foolish thing that a member of their party says, and disagree with the wisest utterances of their opponents. And I liked that Sanford wasn’t a typical Republican in that regard.

But even I was put off by his condescension. It was really obnoxious. But at the time, I brushed past it, moving on to the reason I had wanted him to call me. And it was just such an ODD moment — you know how it is sometimes when somebody says something really odd and off-key, and you just move past it — that I didn’t know how to take it or what to say about it.

Now I do. Now I’ve seen, over and over, the kind of contempt in which Mark Sanford holds those poor saps who came out to support him that day. Now, that remark doesn’t stand out as a stray anomaly. It fits.

More than that, they’ve seen it, too. And they are bound to be wary of lining up behind someone else who shows every sign of wanting to be just like Mark Sanford, someone who hasn’t even waited to become governor to alienate them and run against them.

So I wonder: Will the usual thing happen? Will the GOP close ranks and line up behind Nikki Haley? And will they be saps again if they do so?

Count your blessings, SC: Andre won’t be our governor

Amid all the hoo-hah over Nikki Haley and Gresham Barrett and Vincent Sheheen, and Converse Chellis losing his job and all that down-ballot stuff, it’s easy to forget to be thankful for something:

Andre Bauer is not going to be our governor.

You’re going to scoff, now, and say “How absurd; he was never going to be our governor!” And I say, how soon we forget.

Remember that last year, when we were all suffering Sanford fatigue and thinking how great it would be not to have to look at his long, morose face any more, mooning over his soulmate, we’d get to the point of talking about getting rid of him, and somebody would always say, “Hold on! No way! Then we’d be stuck with Andre.”

Now I thought that was wrongheaded. I thought the very best way to make sure that Andre would NOT be elected governor would be to make him our interim governor. I felt certain that the best way to inoculate ourselves against him was with a big dose of scrutiny. And to make him governor at a time when that office was under unprecedented close attention would guarantee he’d have no chance at the ballot box.

As things worked out, he got enough scrutiny for voters to say “No way.” But if he had been serving as governor, there would have been so much more. There would have been another “free-lunch school kids are like stray animals” moment practically every day.

To me, the secret to Andre’s success was that he had to do something extremely outrageous — such as driving over 100 miles per hour in his state car and evading a ticket by reminding the trooper who he was, or alarming a city cop so much by his wild behavior in broad daylight on Assembly Street to cause the cop to draw his weapon, or crashing an airplane — to draw attention. As governor, we’d be watching him more, and seeing more.

The reason knowledgeable folks were having these debates — would letting him be interim governor give him a better chance or worse chance? — was that we all knew something about Andre: No matter how dim you think his chances are, he always wins elections. He seemed like a weak House candidate — but he won. He seemed like he’d never make the senate — but he did. When he sought statewide office, no one worried — but he became lieutenant governor. And from the moment that happened, everybody knew what he would try for next. The “hardest-working man in SC politics,” as both friends and detractors styled him, would never quit before he had won the top job. This is the guy who came in second in the primary in 2002, but won the runoff. Then, the same thing happened in 2006, which we all thought meant the voters had enough of him — but he won the runoff AGAIN. You just could not count him out.

The idea he would become our governor, in keeping with this maddening illogic of inevitability, has been a worry nagging at the back of my mind for the past eight years. But now, none of us has to worry about that any more.

So thanks for that, Nikki Haley. And Jake Knotts. And Larry Marchant. And Chip Saltsman (remember? the “Barack the Magic Negro” guy). And all the unsung heroes who have played a role in making sure that we wouldn’t be saying “Governor Bauer” a year from now.

Now — once Nikki has dispensed with Gresham Barrett — we just have to ask ourselves one question: With Andre out of the way, which candidate — Nikki Haley or Vincent Sheheen — would be more likely to get us on “The Daily Show” the most? And then, we most vote for the other candidate.

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.

Pore ol’ Henry can’t even get his picture in the paper anymore

Reading my Wall Street Journal this morning, I was struck with just how far poor ol’ Henry McMaster has fallen from when I thought he was the most likely of the GOP hopefuls.

The WSJ had a roundup of “Primaries to Watch From Coast to Coast,” and they had this little bit from our own Valerie Bauerlein:

In her quest to succeed embattled Gov. Mark Sanford, state Rep. Nikki Haley appears to have been helped, rather than hurt, by allegations of marital infidelity made by two men.
The topic has dominated the GOP primary in the two weeks since a popular blogger said he had an “inappropriate physical relationship” with Mrs. Haley, who is married. A powerful lobbyist was soon fired as an adviser to rival Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer’s campaign after saying that he, too, had a liaison with Mrs. Haley.
Mrs. Haley has raised less money and has fewer political connections than her rivals: Mr. Bauer, Attorney General Henry McMaster and U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett. But her anti-establishment message has resonated, and she has been endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the governor’s ex-wife, Jenny Sanford.
Weekend polls show many voters discount the claims against Ms. Haley, raising the specter that she may even receive more than 50% of votes cast, the threshold required to avoid a June 22 runoff.
—Valerie Bauerlein

But the text isn’t what I noticed first. What I noticed was that there were only two pictures: Media Darling Nikki Haley and Gresham Barrett.

I feel bad for Henry, who has been a good attorney general. Maybe he can squeeze past Gresham and get in a runoff. But in the end, Nikki wins it — if she doesn’t go ahead and win it all tonight.

I think I just might reject all the negativity, and accentuate (and reinforce) the positive

I’m not 100 percent there yet, but I’m leaning toward a resolution of my dilemma regarding which primary to vote in.

As I wrote in a comment on a previous thread:

But I’m tired of all these recriminations. I’m tired of all the negativity. I’m sick of all the mud-slinging, and the accusations back and forth. I’m leaning toward voting in the Democratic primary, where I don’t see any of that going on. It means I’m disenfranchised on a long list of public offices. But at least I’d be able to cast a POSITIVE vote (as opposed to trying to determine the least of evils) for governor. Maybe candidates who run positive campaigns DESERVE my vote; maybe that should be reinforced.

There’s just been so much ugliness in this campaign, but it strikes me: As Vincent Sheheen — who has been a strong candidate from the beginning – has quietly marched toward inevitability in the Democratic primary, we’ve seen none of that. Anybody besides me noticing that, or are your eyes still glued to the bloody wreck on the GOP side of the street?

Some thoughtful feedback from a reader

This morning, I found this on Twitter, it having been reTweeted by at least one party:


In case you’re too busy to read sanctimonious @BradWarthen blog on GOP guv field, let me sum it up: “Whatever! I hate them all!”

Nothing like knowing that all your careful, reluctant efforts to express difficult conclusions are being appreciated.

If you’ll recall, Rob’s been doing all he can to keep me straight, in his own gentle manner.

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.

Cindi’s column: ‘The two sides of Nikki Haley’

Just thought I’d bring to your attention Cindi Scoppe’s calm, rational, even-handed take on the Nikki Haleys we have come to know — the appealing, breath-of-fresh-air neophyte lawmaker (vestiges of whom we still see today) and the demagogic ideologue seeking to carry the Mark Sanford banner into South Carolina’s future (which we see far too much of these days).

The value in reading Cindi’s column is that it is rich in specifics, listing Nikki’s positions on quite a number of issues. That’s something you don’t get so much from me. I form a holistic impression of a candidate or an issue, and hold forth on the conclusions I’ve reached. Cindi shares her reporting, point by point. When we went into an editorial board meeting with a candidate, Cindi would have a list of specific questions, so that she could test the candidate against specific positions that we held. I would ask the candidate to start talking (telling us whatever he or she deemed most important), and I would ask questions suggested by what I heard. It made for good teamwork. Cindi made sure we touched all the important bases; I explored unanticipated territory to learn things we would not have learned taking the purely task-oriented approach.

So it is that I think it’s valuable for you, the wise reader, to set my own rambling gestalten observations beside Cindi’s businesslike approach as you move along your own journey in making up your mind about Nikki Haley.

So, without violating Fair Use (I hope), I invite you to go read Cindi’s entire column, which goes from the good…

… She is charming, engaging and smart. She is refreshingly passionate and energetic and not about to put up with the games at the State House. She can explain problems in a way to get voters fired up (“It’s just wrong; it’s wrong all day long,” she says of school administrators’ opposition to a bill that would cost them money by jerking the junk food out of schools). That’s no small thing in a state as apathetic as ours.

She’s all about comprehensive reform — of the tax code, of the executive branch of government, of the school funding system — and her support for those vital changes predates her campaign, and seems far more heartfelt than her GOP opponents….

… to the bad…

… These relatively minor misrepresentations are merely the ones that jumped out at me in a single meeting with our board, and this pattern is disturbingly similar to Mr. Sanford’s signature approach: Take a legitimate problem that’s a bit too complicated or wonky to appeal to the masses, and tart it up to make it look like something it’s not.

Ms. Haley is rigidly ideological. All the Republican candidates support taxpayer-funded “choice” for private schools, but only she would veto a bill expanding public school choice if it didn’t help prop up private schools. All opposed the federal stimulus, but only she opposed accepting the money that we’re on the hook to pay for regardless, because doing so blew the “opportunity” to force the Legislature to make structural reforms….

… to this conclusion:

…When I first met Ms. Haley in 2004, I found her a bit green. But she clearly had a good head on her shoulders and was one of the best new candidates we met that year. As I wrote in our first endorsement of her, she was “so focused on keeping an open mind and being persuaded by facts rather than personality, preconceived notions and party dogma that she’s bound to make smart choices,” and “what she calls a business-like approach strikes us as merely a commonsense, proactive approach that people of any political persuasion should be able to take for granted.”

I wish the Nikki Haley who’s running for governor reminded me more of that person and less of Mark Sanford….

Yeah, what Vincent said (on cigarette tax)…

Dang, I wish I hadn’t posted that Sheheen video earlier, because now that I have a good comment from him on Sanford’s veto of the cigarette tax increase (the increase that only goes half as far as 70 percent of South Carolinians want it to go, but at least is better than the 30-cent we almost had to settle for), it looks like this blog is all Sheheen, all the time.

Anyway, here it is:

“Gov. Sanford’s veto of the cigarette tax is absolutely indefensible,” said Sheheen. He continued:

“I don’t know what world the governor is living in, but here in South Carolina, we’re facing unprecedented budget shortfalls — cutting vital medical services for many South Carolinians and laying off teachers, including my own child’s third grade teacher. Increasing our state’s lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax will qualify our state for millions of dollars in federal matching funds for health care while reducing teen smoking and smoking-related health care costs. It’s the responsible thing to do.

It’s time for us to elect a governor who will be committed to the people of this state rather than committed to an unbending political ideology that ignores the basic needs of everyday South Carolinians.

Yeah, what he said. And yeah, this does illustrate why South Carolinians need to be really, really careful for once about electing a governor. And it’s why we can’t even consider Nikki Haley, and increasingly — and I hate this, because as you know, I like to have a dog in every party’s fight — ALL of the Republicans seem determined to disqualify themselves from being considered by rational independents (I discussed that previously back here).

And as soon as I get a good comment — heck, any comment — coming over the transom from someone else, I’ll post that, too.

By the way, it just so happens that my office door these days actually does have a transom. I don’t think it opens any more, though…

The actual transom over the actual door of my actual office.

Bauer looking for “creative way to announce”


This morning Andre Bauer stopped by my table at breakfast, and while chatting picked up the Metro section of The State and glanced at the story about Jenny Sanford endorsing Nikki Haley.

“What do you think about that?” I asked. What he thought, he said, was that it would really mean something if Jenny could deliver some of the Sanford financial backing to Nikki. This led to some general remarks on what a shame it was that money meant so much in politics, and so forth, but then Andre shifted gears to say that he was proof that money could be overcome — “Your paper (a reference to a newspaper with which I was once associated) reported that Campbell outspent me three to one,” for all the good it did him. He also noted with satisfaction that Mike Bloomberg, despite outspending his opponent by significant margins, was barely re-elected.

I noted that Andre always seemed to overcome the odds by being a “hard worker,” which is true, and which he did not dispute, that being a large part of his public persona.

Then he said he was trying to think of “a creative way to announce,” which of course would give him some exposure he wouldn’t have to pay for.

“You got anything for me?” — meaning ideas. Nope, I said — and managed to hold myself back from begging him to give Sanford just a little longer to resign (not that any amount of time would be enough, of course) …

Nikki gets a Sanford endorsement that actually might help her

The brains of the Sanford outfit has sent out a letter endorsing Nikki Haley, which is of a whole lot more value than if the gov himself were to do so.

Of course, in terms of substance, it’s the same. Which is to say, an endorsement of Nikki is an endorsement of more of the same stuff we’ve suffered through for seven years. An excerpt from Jenny Sanford’s letter:

With many of our public schools shamefully underperforming, I dearly wish for better educational opportunities for our children. With a state government structure that rewards the status quo and stands in the way of change, I wish for vital government reforms. It’s amazing how much better off the people of our state would be if those things happened.
But they won’t happen by just wishing for them. They won’t happen without an enormous amount of hard work. And they won’t happen without making a lot of entrenched powers upset.
I’m proud of the work Mark and his Administration have done over almost seven years now, trying very hard to move the ball forward on all of those fronts. Little in life that is worth accomplishing ever comes without some setbacks along the way. While the Sanford Administration has had some defeats in its efforts to reduce out-ofcontrol state spending, reform archaic state government structure, and give children more educational choices, it has also had successes.

Jenny was always the brains behind Mark. So while her endorsement might generate more sympathy, in terms of political substance, it means the same.