Category Archives: 2010 Governor

Restraining myself while voting

The Quail Hollow precinct at 12:09 p.m. Most of these folks had arrived well before noon, so this is not the lunch rush..

Quail Hollow precinct at 12:09 p.m. All of these people had arrived BEFORE noon (newcomers were still outside), so this is not the lunch-hour rush. In fact, weirdly, it sort of slowed down during lunch hour...

First, several quick Tweets I wrote while standing in the queue:

Standing in a moderately long line at Quail Hollow precinct (I’ve seen longer). 400 voters so far. Man who just left said it took an hour…

Close to 500 voters have shown up so far at Quail Hollow at noon. Veteran poll worker says 700 to 800 is the normal total for all day.

Man behind me tells companions, “This right here might be the most important vote we ever cast.” I agree, but don’t dare ask what HE means.

Not good for Sheheen: My precinct is heavily Republican, my daughter’s is strongly Democratic. Big turnout at mine, a trickle at hers.

A suggestion: If you favor Vincent Sheheen, or merely distrust Nikki Haley, now would be a good time to get your lazy behind out and VOTE.

Of course, on those last couple, I could have been making an incorrect assumption: I’ve heard so many Republicans say they can’t bring themselves to vote for Nikki that maybe, just maybe, enough of them will vote for Vincent. Yeah, that’s a big maybe, and perhaps I’ve just been talking to the brighter sort of Republican, the kind who pay attention and think before they vote. You can’t count on everyone, or even a majority, doing that in an election.

For instance, a friend who usually votes Democratic told me the story of her husband — who ALWAYS votes Republican — a few minutes ago. He has planned all year to vote for Nikki. She asked him this morning before he went to the polls and he said yes, he was still going to vote for. My friend, and her mother, both remonstrated with him about it. Later, he texted his wife to say that he had voted for Vincent. Once he got into the booth, he just couldn’t bring himself to help put Nikki in office.

But now that it’s too late to ask, I find myself really wondering what that man meant when he said, “This right here might be the most important vote we ever cast.” I told my friend in the above anecdote that, and she said she couldn’t imagine a Nikki supporter being that eager to vote. Surely, anyone voting for her, ignoring all her startling negatives, is simply grimly doing what he perceives to be his duty to a party. I told her she was mistaken: Tea Party types think they are part of a great, exciting reform movement. And they seem convinced, despite all the contradictions, that she is part of it, too. They really do, near as I can tell. A Tea Partisan planning to vote for Haley would say something like that.

The same gentleman, discussing the constitutional questions on the ballot with the ladies accompanying him, said it was simple — vote “yes” to all. I restrained myself again. One of the ladies said she wasn’t so sure about that hunting and fishing one, and the man said she probably wouldn’t understand, since she doesn’t hunt and fish. I REALLY held myself back at this point, stopping myself from delivering a soliloquy on how we shouldn’t clutter the state constitution with superfluous language, particularly to indulge our personal whims, and how the issue isn’t whether you’re for hunting or fishing, but whether you think it belongs in the constitution… Such a lecture from me at that time would have been most unseemly, since I was about to violate that principle by voting for constitutional language indulging one of my own political attitudes, which I would normally be dead set against doing. So it’s doubly good that I said nothing.

But the greatest test of my discretion came when I finally got to the booth itself. (Or whatever you call those things, more like a TV table with blinders. A “half-booth,” perhaps.)

It was awkward to step up to the booth at all, because the lady at the one next to me was for some reason standing backed up away and toward me rather than squaring up to her own booth. I could hardly get to mine without brushing against her back. The reason for this became apparent as a poll worker came up to help her with some sort of trouble she was having.

From that point on, I had to struggle to concentrate on my own voting because of the intense scene being played out right at my elbow. At first, I didn’t notice what was said, until the lady bristled, “I don’t appreciate you speaking to me that way! You have no business doing that…”

YOU try not listening to something after hearing that, especially coming from someone you’re practically touching. I mean, I’m a gentleman and all that, but…

BEING a gentleman, I scrupulously didn’t look that way, but I recognized the voice of the poll worker as that of a woman I’ve known for decades. She was using a perfectly professional, calm tone, but she made the mistake of urging the voter to be calm, which really set her off. She was apparently embarrassed at needing help, and extremely sensitive as a result.

At least once more, she demanded that the worker stop “speaking to me that way.” But eventually, she did calm down somewhat, and said that she only cared about voting for two people, and they were both Republicans, so it was probably fine. The worker insisted that it was NOT fine for her to vote a straight Republican ticket if she had not intended to. (God Bless that poll worker! If only it were illegal to surrender your thinking to a party! If only it were not the first choice offered!) They went back and forth on this, with the embarrassed voter wanting it to be over with, and the worker insisting that it was important that her preferences, and only her preferences, be accurately tallied, and that they could fix this…

I don’t know how it came out. But it was hard not to intervene and say “Listen to the poll worker, lady!” But a gentleman doesn’t intervene in, or take any notice at all of, an unseemly disagreement between ladies. Unless it comes of course to fisticuffs, in which case he turns to the other gentlemen present and places wagers…

Imagine a smiley face at the end there…

Sheheen wins endorsement tally, 7-2

Back in 2008 when we endorsed John McCain, some of you pointed out how much of an outlier we were, since most papers across the country went with Obama. You were right to do so, because that was meaningful.

I realize that it’s axiomatic among the kinds of people who will turn out in enthusiastic droves tomorrow that newspapers, being “liberal,” always go with the Democrat. I know better. While newsrooms may be full of folks who usually vote Democratic, if they vote, editorial boards tend to be more centrist. And in South Carolina, they mostly lean right of center, to the extent that such a term in meaningful.

So it is that, even when I disagree with their conclusions, I give weight to the considered opinions of editorial boards, particularly when I see a consensus emerging.

We have such a consensus in South Carolina:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Voters will decide Tuesday on South Carolina’s next governor, but the editors of the state’s larger daily newspapers have cast their ballots in their opinion pages.

The editorial boards of seven newspapers chose Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen and the boards of two Lowcountry newspapers chose Republican state Rep. Nikki Haley.

The Post and Courier of Charleston applauded Haley’s views on government streamlining and reduced government spending.

“South Carolina could benefit from a governor who is committed to being an ‘ambassador, for business growth,” the editorial writers said.

The Greenville News, located in the center of the state’s most Republican and conservative region, said Sheheen is the best candidate to reverse the loss of authority and respect the office has experienced under Gov. Mark Sanford.

“Sheheen seems to best understand how to use the limited power given to the governor in South Carolina to put together teams and work for the common good,” The News’ editorial said…

Haley’s campaign also was endorsed by the joint editorial board of The Island Packet of Hilton Head and The Beaufort Gazette.

Sheheen’s campaign also received endorsements from the Aiken Standard, The State of Columbia, The Morning News of Florence, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, The Herald of Rock Hill and the Herald-Journal of Spartanburg.

Note that the only paper of any size — generally, although not always, an indicator of greater professionalism — going for Nikki Haley is the Charleston paper, which has been head-over-heels for Mark Sanford since Day One. They love the guy, and are bound to love his designated successor.

Meanwhile, newspapers that would usually go for the Republican are unequivocally for Sheheen.

That’s because if serious people who have to stand behind and justify their opinions take a close, thoughtful look at these two candidates, the inevitable conclusion is obvious. At least, that tends to be the case 7 out of 9 times.

This is for you, Kathryn: A rerun of Nikki and the neo-Confederates

Kathryn Fenner, apparently in no mood for nuance at this point in the election, complained that I have posted a couple of videos of Nikki Haley that she (Kathryn) believed cast her in a positive light.

Well, perhaps they did, if you are someone who was likely to vote for Nikki anyway, and are immune to the logical arguments  that accompany the clips. Personally, I thought the Wagner background music I put on one of them was a bit heavy-handed, but maybe you have to hit some people over the head with a Blitzkrieg.

So for Kathryn’s sake, and on the off-chance that it might help voters remember just how low Nikki will stoop to win, I rerun the clip of Nikki kowtowing to folks who think the only mistake that the Confederacy made was not winning the war and succeeding in seceding from the Union.

She was seeking the support of a group called “South Carolina Palmetto Patriots,” a group whose 2010 agenda states:

The Federal government has stolen our liberties and rights and nullified our ability to self govern as a state. It is the obligation of all people of our great state to restore unto ourselves and our children these inalienable rights as set forth in The Constitution of the United States of America.

There are more clips at the group’s website.

I have to be careful what I say about this group, because Doug gets on me when I suggest that there may be a racial tinge in the attitude of anyone who claims NOT to be motivated by race. And I don’t want to get in trouble with Doug…

Judging by my stats, voter interest has NOT risen to game-changing levels

This is not good news for Vincent Sheheen — and therefore, not good news for South Carolina.

Of course, you might shoot holes in the date from which I draw my conclusion, but I thought I’d share it with you anyway.

Going into October, I felt like Vincent would have to grab voter attention in a way he had not previously. There would have to be a surge of people actually excited about his candidacy, and disturbed about the prospect of a Nikki Haley win (which would mean they were finally paying attention).

I was looking at my readership stats for the month, and just going by that imperfect thermometer, I don’t think that surge of interest and attention-paying happened. Oh, sure, I had a great month — my second-best month ever.

But it was still far behind the BEST month ever, which was June of this year.

In June, there was this huge surge of interest, and it led to two outcomes that most people would not have expected a month or two earlier. First, Nikki Haley won the GOP primary over several better known, and at least two better qualified, opponents. It took a runoff, but she got it done. Meanwhile, Vincent Sheheen won without a runoff, against the only Democrat holding statewide office. I saw the Haley win coming, but did not expect Vincent to breeze through without a runoff.

On the blog, the June surge of interest registered as 254,545 page views — three times the biggest month I ever had with my old blog when I was with the paper. It also exceeded easily the record on THIS blog, which was the previous June — the month of the governor’s misadventure in Argentina (168,995 page views).

After that, my traffic dropped off over the summer, then started building back up after Labor Day, as I expected it to do:

  • July — 137,536
  • August — 133,644
  • September — 165,155

The strong upward trend continued in October, but stopped at 176,684.

Yeah, this probably reflects a lack of interest beyond the state lines (my blog tends to peak dramatically when it draws a lot of out-of-state interest, such as after the Edwards column, or the month of the presidential primaries, or when some SC politician does something really embarrassing), and therefore might not be significant. But to me, it looks like nothing game-changing happened.

I hope I’m wrong. Fact is, Vincent has steadily gained on Nikki, and could pull off a non-flashy, tortoise-beats-the-hare win. But that’s a little harder to gauge from where I sit.

What I DID say to the Shop Tart’s readers

I did another guest piece for The Shop Tart over the weekend. Basically, it was a column on politics for people who are (at least theoretically) more interested in shopping and eating out. You may recall when I did this earlier, just before the Columbia city election.

It wasn’t one of my best efforts, but you may want to read it anyway. Here’s the operative core of it:

Now, to the contest that really does matter – governor. How to explain this one? Here’s one way: Don’t think about grown-up politics, or about Democrats and Republicans. Think of it as an election for high school class president. You went to high school, so you know these people. Nikki Haley was the girl who got good grades, not because she understood the subject material, but because she had mastered the ability to repeat to the teacher the key phrases. And because she did lots of extracurricular activities, and always insisted on being elected to head them up. And because she knew how to flatter and wheedle teachers, especially the male ones.

You knew this girl in high school. Maybe you WERE that girl in high school, but we won’t say any more about that.

Vincent Sheheen is the nice, quiet kid who would probably wind up being valedictorian, and you’d all be surprised and say, “How did THAT happen?” because he was never particularly pushy or assertive in class. He always asked the dumb questions that everyone else was too cool to ask, because he genuinely wanted to know the answers.

Everybody liked him, but he was never a BMOC. He was tall, and dark, and nice looking, but you weren’t interested, especially because your mom kept saying, “Why don’t you go out with that nice Sheheen boy?” YOU wanted to go out with that mouthy wiseacre who grew up to be Dick Harpootlian.

Vincent wasn’t a football star. He ran track, and was the best in the state at his event, but you never knew that. He also played basketball, but as a team player, never hogging the ball or showing off when he did get around to scoring.

Nikki was the manager of the girl’s softball team on account of her superb organizational skills (just ask her; she’ll tell you), a reputation she managed to maintain even after losing all of the team’s equipment on a road trip. Twice. She blamed what happened on Nancy Pelosi, which was odd, because at the time no one knew anyone named Nancy Pelosi. It was believed that she played shortstop or something.

In the debates for class president, Vincent gave long, thoughtful, boring answers based on having carefully researched the issues, and kept looking at everyone, even his opponent, with that shy, slightly goofy grin. Nikki, by contrast, spoke entirely in crisply-delivered slogans that sounded great – things like “Free parking for Seniors!” If challenged by Vincent – gently, with that same grin – on any of her dubious, but forceful, assertions, her eyes flashed with anger and she looked like she wanted to scratch his eyes out.

Vincent dated a really cute girl who was a cheerleader, and you had a feeling they would get married and in the future would be one of those infuriatingly perfect couples. Nikki had a boyfriend, but no one could remember his name. He was in JROTC or something. Her name was whispered in connection with other boys, and some of the more obnoxious, least popular geeks in the class made dubious claims of having “gone all the way” with her, but no one paid them any mind because no girl in the class would have dreamed of so much as speaking to those creeps, much less…you know.

OK, I’ve carried this analogy about as far as I can, but you get the idea…

There was some serious stuff after that, in which I urged the Tart’s readers to vote for Sheheen, and explained why they should. I may do an expanded version of that here, just as an election-eve summary, if I can shake off this cold-medicine lethargy. I got some kind of allergy or cold thing over the weekend, and am perpetually drowsy…

How Nikki Haley charmed me

That was my compromise headline, by the way. My first thought was “How Nikki Haley seduced me,” and boy, that would have driven my traffic up and helped me sell some ads. It would have been a perfectly fine use of figurative language. But I decided against it. I’m not THAT anxious to sell ads (if I were, I’d spend some time on the phone selling, and you’d see more of them). Then I thought of, “How Nikki Haley fooled me,” but that would have been TOO prosaic. So I went with the compromise.

And what it means is this: Folks, I know how attractive (as a candidate, I mean) Nikki Haley can be. I mean, she had me at “I’m running against Larry Koon” way back in 2002, and she totally pulled me into her orbit when she told me of how his redneck supporters were attacking her ethnicity, causing me to write an impassioned defense of her and condemnation of them. (I have this atavistic impulse toward knight errantry. It’s what causes me to have a notion that the United States should ride about the world slaying ogres in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia and the like. And if I can actually, literally defend a lady in distress — well, all the better.)

Being on Nikki’s side made us feel good about ourselves. She came across as an absolute paragon of political virtue taking on the entrenched interests, and she did it well. At the time, we didn’t know that as she was advocating “running government like a business,” she was failing to pay taxes on time for the business for which she was the accountant. We didn’t know she was parlaying her support of Lexington Medical Center getting an open-heart center into a $110,000-a-year job that didn’t require her to show up.

And most of all, we did not know that she — who chaired a subcommittee charged with coming up with regulations for the payday lending industry — would tap that industry for contributions to her employer’s cause.

Now that I do know those things, I’ve thought back a number of times to the portion of my last extended interview with her when she spoke of how she was stymied by her leadership and prevented from passing meaningful reform of payday lending. You will hear her speak knowledgeably and energetically about how her committee carefully researched the issue and came up with a bill she was proud of (one that would regulate, not eliminate, such lenders), only to see it cavalierly deep-sixed by her leadership.

It was, in retrospect, quite a performance, and I believed in it entirely. I believe in it now as I watch it. You probably will, too. Look at her face as I ask her to clarify — was it Harry Cato who killed your bill. Yes, she nods, with wide eyes, evincing reluctance at seeming to tell tales, then smiling winningly.

The thing is, it’s so convincing that I still believe that she was sincere. I mean, look at her. But that sincere young woman who spoke of how much she was learning as a novice legislator has been very little in evidence since she found “the power of her voice” as a Sarah-Palin-style demagogue who despises experience and nuance, and speaks almost entirely in bumper stickers.

The Nikki Haley on the video was … smarter than the one we hear today. And more believable. She was almost… wonkish. Definitely our kind of gal, the sort we’d be sure to have an editorial crush on.

And I still marvel over how she’s changed.

Bottom line… I have a lot of experience observing Nikki Haley. So when I tell people who just recently discovered her that she isn’t all that she seems, and that it would be a bad idea to elect her to higher office, my assessment has very deep roots. It took me a LONG time to realize just how problematic Nikki Haley was. And voters just haven’t had enough time with her. It’s like being a pilot — I’ve got a couple of thousand hours with this particular aircraft, and it’s hard to explain all that I’ve learned about her idiosyncracies to anyone who’s had less than a hundred.

Which is why I wish Election Day were a little farther off. Eventually, I believe everybody will see all the sides of Nikki Haley. But after Tuesday, it will be too late to help our state.

Sheheen gets support from 2 more top Republicans

Vincent Sheheen talks a lot about how he would emulate Carroll Campbell on economic development and other issues. That’s not just some line to hoax the yokels.

Two top business supporters of Campbell (and Thurmond and Dole and other Republicans) have officially endorsed his candidacy, including a former commerce secretary from a GOP administration:

GOP Business Leaders Endorse Sheheen

Columbia, SC – With only five days until the General Election, two of South Carolina’s most notable and successful business leaders, both of whom have been Republican Party mainstays, have endorsed the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

Today, W. W.“ Hootie” Johnson of Columbia and Robert Royall of Huger endorsed Democrat Vincent Sheheen.  Both men have a long history of supporting Republicans at every level but say this year’s election is too important to be bound by partisanship.

The two banking pioneers are well known for their staunch support of the Republican Party and its candidates.  Johnson chaired campaign finance committees for Strom Thurmond and Carroll Campbell and was also Bob Dole’s SC finance chair during the presidential campaign of 1996.  Royall was state commerce secretary under Governor David Beasley and US ambassador to Tanzania under President George W. Bush.  The two have made substantial financial contributions to Republicans over the years.

“This is a crucial time in South Carolina.  Our next governor must be a statesman who is focused on addressing our challenges.  We have worked for the election of South Carolinians like Strom Thurmond and Carroll Campbell,” said Johnson and Royall. “We see Vincent Sheheen as having the potential leadership qualities of these two great South Carolinians.”

“South Carolina needs a trust-worthy leader with a good understanding of government and business.  Vincent Sheheen has an abundance of these qualities and he has the temperament to be a unifier in the legislature.  We desperately need a governor who can get this state back on the right path, and Vincent can be that governor,” said Johnson and Royall.


Will this tip the balance? Nope. Because 99.99 percent of people voting next Tuesday are NOT knowledgeable Republicans who’ve been there and done that, or respected business leaders. In fact, in this populist environment, such things are denigrated. If you had to actually know something about economic development to vote — or if you had to actually KNOW both Vincent Sheheen and Nikki Haley well — Sheheen would win in a walk. But that’s not the way our democracy works.

The thing is, most of the people who will vote Tuesday — for either candidate — probably never heard of Hootie Johnson or Bob Royall.

Quite a system we’ve got, huh?

TIP: Hypocrisy may be Haley’s most “transparent” trait

The latest from Cyndi Mosteller’s group, which seems to speak for a lot of Republicans I hear from and about, but who are not as loudly on the record as this bunch:

Columbia, SC—Conservatives for Truth in Politics announces a “Truth Alert” for the people of South Carolina.  “TIP is appalled at the recent actions of the Haley campaign to mislead the people of SC on very important issues facing our state,” said co-chairs Cyndi Mosteller and David Woodard.  Specifically, TIP is referring to a negative ad paid for by the Haley campaign that criticizes Sheheen on two votes: one raising the tax on cigarettes by 50 cents a pack and the other on Act 388, the property tax relief act, that is very controversial because it did not address commercial property and second homes.

“The hypocrisy of Ms. Haley might be her most transparent characteristic,” said Mosteller.  “Haley is critical of Sheheen for supporting a cigarette tax but she herself has said she would support a tax on groceries?  Enough is enough.  She will not pull the wool over our eyes anymore.” Ms. Haley claims to be an outsider but her actions tell a different story.   What we do know is that Ms. Haley is in the back pocket of big tobacco.  She was part of a small minority that worked to defeat the cigarette tax—the tax that was the lowest in the country.

“She carried the water for big tobacco but she won’t carry the water for working families of SC,” said Woodard.  “As a parent with three teenage daughters, I was one Republican that understood the clear thinking involved when the legislature put an additional tax on cigarettes.  Anything we can do to discourage kids from picking up this high-risk habit is a good thing. I applaud Mr. Sheheen for his vote and I think most people of SC feel the same way. My memory is that 80% of people support a tax on cigarettes to the southeastern average,” said Mosteller.

What Ms. Haley won’t tell you is that she wants to place a tax on groceries in a time in which SC families are struggling financially. This tax will cost all SC families hundreds of millions of dollars on the most important necessity—food.  And what does she want to do with this tax money that is coming out of families’ pockets?  Yes.  Give it to big out-of-state corporations by eliminating the corporate income tax. “Let me make this clear to all.  Ms. Haley supports taxing your food and giving it to large out-of-state corporations and then has the nerve to criticize Sheheen for supporting a cigarette tax?  I can’t believe she calls herself a conservative Republican,” said Liana Orr, Secretary and Director of TIP.

“As the campaigns come to an end with Election Day just around the corner, TIP will increase its efforts to call anyone out that is distorting the truth,” said Woodard.

TIP is a 501 c 4 advocacy organization.  To learn more about this issue and other issues that we are questioning the candidates on, go to


The moment when Nikki Haley peaked

A number of times recently when I’m being interviewed — informally at a cocktail reception, or formally on radio or the tube — I make reference to the fact that Nikki Haley peaked on May 14, 2010. I was there; I saw it.

It was the Friday evening when Sarah Palin came to call.

It was also the moment, three-plus weeks out, when it first became evident to me that she was going to win the primary.

I don’t think I wrote about that particular epiphany at the time. Instead, I wrote about how disturbingly alienated I felt at that Tea Party event. There was something really unpleasant going on, something different from the usual obnoxious nonsense one hears at political gatherings — that is to say, something that was obnoxious in a different way — and I felt compelled to analyze it. Nikki’s political fortunes weren’t so much on my mind at the moment, although I did remark on the startling change in her:

A little over a year ago, Nikki Haley was just an idealistic sophomore legislator who was touchingly frustrated that her seniors in her party didn’t roll over and do what she wanted them to do when she wanted them to do it. It didn’t really worry me when I would try to explain to her how inadequate such bumper sticker nostrums as “run government like a business” were (based in a lack of understanding of the essential natures not only of government, but of business, the thing she professes to know so well), and she would shake her head and smile and be unmoved. That was OK. Time and experience would take care of that, I thought. She was very young, and had experienced little. Understanding would come, and I felt that on the whole she was still a young lawmaker with potential.

I reckoned without this — this impatient, populist, drive for power BASED in the appeal of simplistic, demagogic opposition to experience itself. It’s an ugly thing, this sort of anti-intellectualism of which Sarah Palin has become a national symbol. This attitude that causes her to smile a condescending, confident smile (after all, the crowd there is on HER side) at protesters — protesters I didn’t even notice until she called attention to them — and tell them that they should stick around and maybe they would learn something. If a 65-year-old male intellectual with a distinguished public career said that to a crowd, everyone would understand it was ugly and contemptuous. But Sarah is so charming about it, so disarming! How could it be ugly?

Whenever I had met with her in the past, she had been so … demure. She was the idealistic young lady who was just deeply shocked that those mean old men at the State House didn’t understand that she was trying to do the right thing and that they should just be gentlemen and help her do it…

Which perhaps was her reading of what I wanted her to be, so she played that part. But I had thought it was real. And we endorsed her — twice.

Anyway, I didn’t write “Nikki’s going to win this thing” at the time, but it was on my mind. One reason I didn’t come out and SAY it, I guess, was that, well, that was Brad the INTP at his most intuitive. It would have driven the engineer types like Doug nuts, and when they demanded the geometric proof, I would come up a little short on evidence.

But personally, I had sort of learned over the years to trust that impression. I first experienced it covering my first statewide race, in 1978 in Tennessee. All the experienced reporters at the big papers were saying the race between Lamar Alexander and Jake Butcher was too close to call. But I had been closely covering both of them — I had spent a full week with each, sometimes 20 hours a day, riding in the cars and campaign planes with them, eating with them, standing right next to them when they interacted with voters, being right there in their good moments and their bad… (We used to do that sort of thing in the old days. It was called “covering an election.” News organizations don’t spend that kind of money any more, and campaigns don’t allow that kind of access to candidates. Now, most people follow the “Nixon in ’68” approach. That’s why the media loved John McCain — he let the walls down.) Anyway, I had seen in Alexander a candidate who was winning, and in Butcher a furtive, uncomfortable guy who couldn’t possibly be winning.

It was a look in the eye, a note in the voice, a certain energy.

And it turned out I was right.

Anyway, Nikki had that on May 14. Just watch and see if you see it. Sure, there were rough spots — such as the Freudian-sounding slip when she says “You know, I’ve spent the last six years trying to get people to understand the power of my voice,” then hastily corrects, “the power of their voice” — but on the whole, you’re looking at a candidate who is in the zone.

When you watch this, you will hear most of the things you’ve now grown tired of hearing her repeat. Only back then it had a freshness, magnified both by her confidence and the uncritical cheers of the crowd — a crowd that did not and never would challenge her self-shaped myth of the great businesswoman who had much to teach government as she chastised it.

Nikki defenders will say, “She’s still GOT that energy, and you’ll see next Tuesday.” But no, not really. That was her peak, back then. The only question since then has been the rate at which the air would run out of that balloon. She was flying so high then, the issue ever since has been how much altitude she could afford to lose by Election Day. She’s been losing air all along; her bumper-sticker sound clips have seemed a bit staler, a bit more brittle, with each repetition. (You’ll note some really sharp ironies, such as when she calls for income disclosure for legislators, or talks about what a great accountant she is…)

Right now, it looks as though she has enough altitude left to make it through Tuesday — although for all the many reasons cited on this blog the eventual crash is inevitable. (What worries me, as I wrote back here, is that the crash will come in early 2011 instead of before Election Day, leaving us with 3-plus years of a lame-duck governor, when SC needs so much more.)

But whatever happens Tuesday, this was the day on which she was flying the highest.

Actually, SC could use another month

While walking me back to the studio to tape the Friday radio show at ETV yesterday, the engineer asked me whether I was “as ready for next Wednesday as we are.”

Rather than giving the usual sort of “You bet!” that such a remark generally prompts, I thought for a second and said No, actually I’d like a little more time, thanks.

This morning, an attorney friend also asked whether I was ready to have it over with, and I took the thought further: I think South Carolina could use about one more month, so that it can make a well-considered decision.

As they focus on this gubernatorial decision, more and more voters are realizing what those of us who obsess over politics to an unhealthy degree realized long ago: Vincent Sheheen is easily the better candidate, and there are enough problems with Nikki Haley to make even the staunchest Republican run the other way.

The more they know, the more likely they are to make that decision.

In fact, I’ll go further: I think eventually we will reach a very clear consensus on this in South Carolina. The terrible thing is, I’m afraid we’re going to reach it sometime after next Tuesday. Now if you’re one of the less thoughtful Republicans — one who thinks the thing is for someone with an “R” to win the election, no matter the consequences — you say, “Yay!” to that. But many of those who would cheer today are going to deeply regret that choice sometime in the not-too-distant future, if Nikki wins.

This is inevitable. Every new thing we’ve learned about Nikki the last few months — everything personal, professional, political — has indicated that she falls far short of being the kind of person one would trust with such responsibility. As she is subjected to further scrutiny, I expect this to get worse. She just doesn’t bear close examination.

I’d rather the voters not have to go through that painful buyer’s remorse. I’d rather they reach that decision now. Because I don’t care which team wins elections (the Dems won big in 2008; the Repubs will win big this year; the Dems probably again next time… whoop-ti-frickin’-do; who could possibly think it matters?). What I care about is South Carolina.

We’ve been through too many painful realizations AFTER the fact in South Carolina — after David Beasley, after Jim Hodges, after Mark Sanford. For once, we need to realize the truth BEFORE the election, and choose wisely. We need good leadership more than any other state I can think of.

So it is that when, minutes after that conversation with the attorney, as I was getting off the elevator and another friend asked whether I thought I could survive another week, I said Well, actually, I’d like it to be a little longer…

Where you can see and hear me in coming days

This morning, I taped a segment for ETV Radio with Mark Quinn, and while I was doing it, I thought that for once, I’d give y’all a heads-up ahead of time about where you can see and hear me over the next few days. So here goes:

  • The ETV Radio segment will air on Friday at 1 p.m. Mark and I talked for 15 minutes, mostly about the gubernatorial election. I worried a bit that I did an uncharacteristic thing: Rather than speak as the detached observer the way I usually do on radio, I spoke as the blogger who very much hopes Vincent overcomes the odds. I apologized to Mark for that after, but he said it was OK, so maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought…
  • Speaking of ETV, a program called “How We Choose” will air on the TV version at 9:30 p.m. Friday, and again on Monday, election eve, at 7 p.m. There are some clips from the program up on the ETV election blog. I was one of a bunch of people interviewed for this, and it was so long ago I don’t know what I said, but it was very Civics 101 stuff about democracy and voting and the like. You know — educational.
  • Remember that “party politics” primer I did on the city election for the Shop Tart, specially crafted for her particular audience? That was well received, and she wants me to do another, and I have promised her I would. So repeating the promise in writing to y’all is my way of making myself write it and get it to her sometime this week. If I fail, I fail in the world’s eyes, not just the Tart’s…
  • I’ve manipulated the Health & Happiness schedule so that it will be my turn to do it at the Columbia Rotary Club on Monday, election eve. If I can’t come up with decent political material for that day, I never will. That’s at 1 p.m. at Seawell’s. You have to get a member to host you if you want to be there. (So now, I’ve just put EXTRA pressure on myself to come up with something good. Sheesh. Comedy is hard.)
  • Nov. 2 — On Election Night, I’ll be on WIS. Judi Gatson has asked me to appear along with Sid Bedingfield (Political analyst from USC) and Douglas Wilson (a blogger at to talk election results. I said OK, so guess I won’t be doing my usual roaming that night, but will be in a fixed location. I THINK I’ll be able to blog during that, but if I don’t, and you wonder where I am, turn on the tube.
  • On Nov. 4th, I’ll be speaking to the SC Telecommunications Association’s Fall Conference at the Radisson, about election results.
  • On Saturday, Nov. 6, I’m the featured entertainment for the Lower Richland Dem Breakfast out on Garners Ferry Road. They, too, want me to talk about election results.

So, I’m busy doing a lot of stuff besides earning a living and blogging. But you might say that I’m blogging by other means — and of course wherever I go, I give ADCO a plug…

Sheheen’s latest ad

I got a link to this new Sheheen ad, along with a reminder to watch the debate tonight:

The third and final debate will be held tonight at 7:00PM in Florence. The debate, sponsored by Francis Marion University, Coastal Carolina University,  WBTW-TV and the Morning News, will be broadcast live on WBTW News 13, C-SPAN and  Anchor Bob Juback will moderate the debate, which will feature a media panel as well as voter-submitted questions.

The ad, of course, doesn’t ad anything to our knowledge, but then political ads never do. At least, not for people who actually pay attention to politics. No, campaigns raise all this money, and spend most of it on television, in order to communicate to people who simply are not paying attention. Which is depressing…

It would be great if Vincent had a chance to be elected just by emphasizing his own virtues, but if I were advising his campaign, I don’t know what I would tell them to do differently. The thing is, his positive traits are not simple, bumper-sticker things. At this stage in the campaign, the reasons NOT to vote for Nikki are so very many and so sharply defined that they are much, much easier to communicate to those distracted souls who have not yet made up their minds.

So he goes with trust. On one level, that’s a good thing, because I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone at the State House I trust more than I do Vincent. But I wish our political debates went deeper than this. Sure, there are more than enough reasons for people to go to great lengths to avoid having Nikki Haley as their governor. The reasons are objective, indisputable and nonideological. No sensible person who wants the best for South Carolina — regardless of his or her ideology — would want her to be our governor, knowing all the things we now know. Some of you will object to that categorical statement, but I’m sorry… you see, I’ve been paying attention. I’ve seen how the facts have given the lie to every virtue she has claimed, one after another.

And yet people — people who would protest that they DO know the score, and they DO care what’s best — will vote for her. It’s stunning the degree to which people will allow foolish, shallow distractions — party, gender, what have you — prevent them from focusing on her utter unsuitability.

So Vincent Sheheen, who is capable of greater depth, keeps it simple in the hope that if you keep stating the PAINFULLY OBVIOUS, people will act rationally.

And if they don’t, well… combine that with what happened with Alvin Greene, and I may end this year beginning to have real trouble with my lifelong faith in the Democratic process.

Just the facts, Jack: Dept. of Ed. employment

So we’ve heard Vincent Sheheen say there are only about 800 something state Department of Education employees, and Nikki comes back that no, there are eleven hundred and something (going by memory, since I can’t see my DVR from here).

And you think, “Whoa! Surely she wouldn’t give an actual NUMBER if it’s not true!” That is, you think that if you’re one of those simple folk who think numbers represent a special kind of truth.

And if you don’t know our Nikki, who is completely unbothered by actual facts.

Happily, self-styled “Crafty ol’ TV reporter” Jack Kuenzie bothered to check:

Debate issue: # of employees @ SC DOE? Dept. says 1,179 FTEs authorized, many slots vacant. Filled: 449 in bus shops, 434 administrative.

Those of you inclined to be overly kind will say, “Then they were both right!”


The context in which this keeps coming up has to do with Nikki repeating the canard that our wicked, evil public education system never lays off “bureacrats,” but always lays off teachers first, because… well, just because it’s mean and evil.

Which, like most of what she says, is not true. The Department of Education — you know, the place where you find people actually enforce all those accountability rules and regulations that people who don’t trust public education have instituted over the years — actually employs far fewer than it’s authorized to employ.

And half of them (actually, more than half) keep the buses running. Just as Vincent keeps explaining.

Burn, Baby, Burn

The things you miss when you leave town a couple of days:

She also drew a comparison between working with lawmakers and raising children.

“That’s what it’s all about — letting them know what would happen,” she said, adding most lawmakers, like kids, will do the right thing if the consequences are clear. “If they mess up, I will burn them.” [Emphasis mine.]

Remember what I said about how Nikki, being female and petite and couching things as a “Mom,” gets away with saying things that coming from a man would sound incredibly presumptuous, megalomaniacal and bullying? This is another of those things…

She’s trying to sound fair and reasonable, but the rabble-rousing, storm-the-Bastille rhetoric that won the hearts of the Tea Party keeps coming out…

Mrs. William Michael Haley, and all the ladies of the House

Just noticed something on the S.C. legislative website. On the page with links to House members’ bios, there is an interesting difference in the way distaff members are listed:

Jeff D. Duncan
Tracy R. Edge
Shannon S. Erickson (Mrs. Kendall F.)
P. Michael “Mike” Forrester
Marion B. Frye
Laurie Slade Funderburk (Mrs. Harold Williams)
Michael W. “Mike” Gambrell
Wendell G. Gilliard
Jerry N. Govan, Jr.
Anton J. Gunn
Nikki Randhawa Haley (Mrs. William Michael)
Daniel P. “Dan” Hamilton
Nelson L. Hardwick

I never noticed that before, and I wonder why. Is it because they didn’t DO it that way before, or because I just never looked up any female members, or I just wasn’t being observant?

Anyway, it jumped out at me just now, when I went to try to answer the question raised by a reader back here (but I did not find the answer).

I wonder what y’all think of it.

Me, I like it. I think it’s genteel. But then, I would have been at home in the England that Patrick O’Brian and Jane Austen wrote about, when ladies were ladies and gentlemen were gentlemen. As long as I got to be a gentleman. (I think if I took an aptitude test that tested for all occupations throughout history, I would test as perfectly suited to being an English gentleman who did nothing but ride to the hounds and collect his rents — that is, let his man of business collect them for him, of course. I feel it in my bones. And you know what? In that whole year I was looking, I never saw a job like that.)

At lunch today, when I said something about how Vincent Sheheen has to be careful not to seem to be TOO aggressive with Nikki Haley, my ADCO colleague Lora Prill gently suggested that my sensibility with regard to matters of chivalry is a relic of a bygone era, which means of course that I’m way old. Which I’m not; I’m just quixotic.

At any rate, say what else you may say about it, it’s very South Carolina.

Did Sheheen really score a knockout last night?

That’s what Sheheen’s campaign claimed this morning. At the same time, they released the results of a new Crantford poll showing Vincent well within the 3.8 percent margin of error, right on Nikki Haley’s heels:

New PollIf you were able to watch the debate that just ended, it’s clear on who should be your next governor.  Vincent Sheheen scored a decisive victory. He showed that he’s the only candidate that understands the issues and more importantly, the one candidate voters can trust.

The debate is not the only victory for Vincent this week.  A new poll released today shows Vincent Sheheen continues to capture the momentum in South Carolina’s race for governor. The news comes a day after pre-election campaign contribution reports demonstrated Vincent Sheheen raised more contributions than Nikki Haley from South Carolina donors.

South Carolinians are now paying attention to this race. Voters are informing themselves about the candidates, and they are excited about Vincent Sheheen.

The new survey, conducted by Crantford & Associates, shows Haley’s lead has dropped to just two points, 43%-41% with 16% undecided. While Vincent’s support is growing, Haley’s continues to decline drastically.

Well, I missed the debate last night, and all day I’ve been catching flak about that (not “flack,” Kathryn) from people who think Sheheen thumped Haley and want to see me write about it.

I’ve mumbled something about how I advocated for debates for all those people who for whatever reasons had not focused on the candidates’ relative strengths and weaknesses, not for my benefit… which hasn’t gotten me anywhere with anyone.

So now, near the end of the day, I’m finally about to view the debate at the WSPA website. I’ll offer some thoughts when I’m done. But if y’all would like, you can go ahead and weigh in now.

Sheheen’s restructuring plan

Speaking of Doug Ross — back on a previous post, Doug complains again, and with considerable justice, that Vincent Sheheen is light on details about his advocacy for government reform. Well, he isn’t if you ASK him, but he doesn’t OFFER such explication — probably because he thinks everybody but Brad Warthen is bored by such stuff.

Well, here’s a little something to fill in the gaps (in addition to what I got him to say on “The Brad Show” last week). First, here’s a blog post I wrote at the time he came to pitch his plan to us at The State — long before he started to run for governor.

And here’s his bill on the subject.

In case you have trouble with the link (from my blog post) to his op-ed on the subject (it’s a Word file), here’s what he wrote at the time:

Vincent Sheheen
Guest Columnist

For more than a decade, our great state has engaged in a repetitive argument over which branch of government should have more power, the legislative branch or the executive branch. This contentious argument about the balance of power misses the point and too often degenerates into fruitless bickering. The real point is that neither branch effectively fulfills its role in controlling and overseeing government operations and programs. We are trying to run a modern, sovereign government with essentially the same antiquated tools used for more than 100 years.

Our state’s government operation is like a multi-headed hydra, each head having a mind of its own, with little cooperation and no central guiding spirit. Our agencies often pursue their own agendas, operating in separate chimneys with little independent, organized oversight and no outside, regular evaluation of operations, programs or policies.

It is time to fundamentally change and modernize our government’s form, structure and mode of operation to create accountability within both the executive and legislative branches. During the next session of the General Assembly, I will propose the Government Accountability Act of 2008. If enacted, this legislation will transform the General Assembly’s operations, by requiring real oversight of government agencies. It will streamline our executive branch and increase accountability in government operations.

First, the bill requires the Legislature to fulfill its duties as an independent and effective branch of government with an obligation to continually evaluate and examine the operations of state programs and agencies. As currently structured, our Legislature simply passes laws and fails to perform almost any regular oversight of the effectiveness of state government or programs. My proposal provides a framework for the Legislature to fulfill these responsibilities.

The bill will force our General Assembly to move into the modern age by conducting regular oversight hearings on the operations of state government through adaptation of its current committee structure. Each committee will be required to systematically examine the operations of state government that fall within its jurisdictional boundaries, evaluating the real need for existing programs and determining what the future requires. Only then will the General Assembly truly be able to make informed decisions about the needs of our state.

Additionally, the Government Accountability Act will require the General Assembly to change our current budget practices. Right now, our annual appropriations bill is little more than an accounting document, listing out agencies and amounts of money allocated to them. Under my proposal, the Legislature will have to utilize a programmatic budget, requiring that each program have objective performance criteria for legislators to consider as we decide how much money is deserved for a specific program.

The bill will create a more efficient and functional executive branch by reducing the number of statewide elected officials, consolidating offices and devolving more power to the governor’s office. Importantly, the proposal will shift all truly administrative functions away from the Budget and Control Board and vest them in the governor. By making more agencies directly answerable to the governor and consolidating administrative functions, we provide the governor with more authority to fulfill his role as chief executive of the state. With increased authority will come increased responsibility and accountability for our governor to produce results.

To bring even further accountability to government operations, the bill will create an office of inspector general and strengthen protections for civic-minded state employees who report waste and misconduct. The office of inspector general will be charged with rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in the operations of state government. It is time that South Carolina has an officer whose single-minded purpose is investigating and evaluating such problems.

My bill will also strengthen our currently weak whistleblower law to encourage state employees to blow the whistle on misconduct, inappropriate practices or waste that hinders the proper functioning of our state government.

Empowering our government is not a zero-sum game. No one has to lose. In fact, the proposed Government Accountability Act makes all of South Carolina the winner. We must increase the efficacy of our government by changing the traditional role of the General Assembly to require continuous evaluation of government operations and programs. We must reform our budget process, restructure the executive branch to place more responsibility on the governor and create an inspector general to investigate and prosecute government misconduct.

Increasing power and accountability in one branch without addressing the deficiencies in the other will result in disappointment. The time for change is now; we cannot afford to wait.

Mr. Sheheen is a Camden attorney who represents Chesterfield, Kershaw and Lancaster counties in the state Senate.

If Vincent can get elected governor, he will have enormous leverage to get this passed. Which is one reason that a wonk like me is excited about his candidacy.

When the going gets tough, the tough talkers fail to pay their taxes on time

The last couple of days have been busy, too busy for me to report adequately on Nikki Haley’s appearance before the Columbia Rotary Club Monday.

Of course, there’s not much to report. She basically gave the same speech I’ve heard all year — the same one I heard at that Sarah Palin rally, which frankly I see as the moment Nikki peaked. She was at the height of her powers. She was that creature I’ve recognized so often — one who knows he or she is on the ascendance. It was that evening that I knew she was going to win the primary.

What’s remarkable is that now she’s still giving the same speech. For instance, she still has the gall to tout her experience and ability as an accountant — even though now (as opposed to when she started giving this speech) we know that pretty much every opportunity she’s had to apply these skills, in her personal finances and her family’s business, she’s left a mess behind, littered with broken deadlines and fines that had to be paid. Have you ever had to pay a fine for failure to pay taxes on time? And do you go around boasting about how you’re a great accountant? Well, she still does, and she demonstrably is not.

But that doesn’t seem to bother her.

My friend Mike Fitts, who writes for Columbia Regional Business Report, asked to come to Rotary as my guest, so I invited him. I gather Mike has had a bit of trouble getting Nikki’s attention. But when I asked him that, he said no, he had been allowed 20 minutes with her — in August.

Mike managed to dredge a story out of the speech, but it’s not the strongest of news angles. An excerpt:

Haley says family financial struggles led to tax issues

By Mike Fitts
Published Oct. 19, 2010
Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley said her family “was struggling” financially when they failed to pay or file their income taxes on time.
Haley took a question about the tax issues during her Monday visit to the downtown Columbia Rotary Club. According to published reports, Haley was late paying her taxes for the years 2004 to 2006, accruing more than $4,000 in late payment penalties. The family did see its reported income cut in half between 2005 and 2006, dropping to just more than $40,000.
Haley said she and her husband had lost some income at the time and were shutting down a business. The economic aftermath of the 9/11 attacks had dented their retail business, as it had many others.
“We know what it’s like to struggle,” Haley said.
While the Internal Revenue Service does allow extensions for paperwork, it expects taxpayers to make an accurate assessment of the likely tax bill and to pay on time.
The question came from a Rotarian who described himself as a supporter, saying he wanted to give the Lexington Republican a chance to clear up the issue….

Maybe that was the best, newest angle to come out of the session; I don’t know. But I remember that when I heard her say it, I thought, “Duh!” I mean, we kinda assumed that she was having financial difficulties. Not paying your taxes is a financial difficulty in itself.

The issue, of course, is how you deal with difficulties. And since she obviously dealt with hers in less than a stellar manner — especially for such an ace accountant — the question remains how she squares this with her touted skills. At two points in her performance Monday, she said the following:

If you’re in business, you know: The best decisions are when you go through the hardest times. There’s an opportunity there, because it will force us to prioritize…

What I’d like to know is how she squares that with how poorly she handled tough times. I know a thing or two about tough times, about seeing your source of income kicked out from under you and wondering how you’re going to get the mortgage paid. But I also know that one thing you want to avoid is getting in a situation in which you have to pay a fine on top of the taxes you owe. I’m no accountant, but I can figure that out.

And you definitely don’t do it if you’re going to have the nerve to ask voters to elect you to handle their money.

Sheheen not getting help from national party? Good.

The first thing I saw on this topic was that Dick Harpootlian was apoplectic about it:

Nu Wexler wexler Nu Wexler

God bless Harpo. RT @jmartpolitico: Harpootlian sounds off on $ sc dems are getting for gov race: “I’m pissed.”

Well, Dick gets worked up.

For my part, I’m glad Vincent Sheheen isn’t getting any real help from the national party. Who the governor of South Carolina is is no business of the national Democratic Party. Or, for that matter, of all those national donors Nikki Haley keeps leaving the state to court.

All of those people should stay out of our business.

Anyway, it doesn’t sound like Vincent’s hurting. Today he touted having raised $3.5 million:

Camden, SC–Today, the Vincent Sheheen for Governor campaign will file its pre-election campaign finance report with contributions totaling over $1.8 million for the period. Ninety-four percent of the contributions came from South Carolina.  The Sheheen campaign has raised a total of over $3.5 million in the race for governor.

Maybe that’s not enough to pay for the kind of inside-the-Beltway partisan campaign that Nikki’s running (going on about Obamacare and immigration in Arizona, rather than about South Carolina), but that, too, is a good thing.

Um, TIME… mind if we have an election first?

This was brought to my attention via a release from the SC Democrats yesterday, as follows:

Haley Makes Time’s 40 Under 40, But Why?

COLUMBIA- Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley made national headlines again today for being named one of Time magazine’s 40 Under 40. The scandal-plagued candidate was named alongside young civic leaders who are actually making a difference in American politics by working to fix a broken system – and to restore faith in the process.

South Carolina Democrats said today that Haley fit the age requirement for Time’s list but hasn’t really met the list’s other requirements.

“Nikki Haley may have national notoriety for her ties to Sarah Palin, but she hasn’t done much to alleviate South Carolina’s problems.  With her only legislative victory a law that says who can shampoo hair, she’s shown herself to be completely ineffective as a legislator.  It’s going to be hard for Ms. Haley to restore faith in the political process when it’s obvious she’s been less than truthful about so many things. Something new is revealed about her every week,” said South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler.

And here’s the abomination to which they refer. And it gets worse. The headline is “40 Under 40: A New Generation of Leaders.” (You can see a video about it. And if you let the video keep running, you get to see one on “Naughty Lingerie in Conservative Syria.” Nope, I’m not making it up.)

Really? You’re serious — a backbencher whose only passed bill had to do with washing hair, and she is a “leader?”


Tell you what, TIME. I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d wait until we have an election before you find out who will be the new leader out of South Carolina who is under 40.

Yeah, I know that the national media, particularly the “news”magazines that are a sort of parody of journalism, just practically collapse with excitement that there’s an Indian-American woman running for governor in SC. Because that’s just the sort of superficial, meaningless trivia that hits you where you live. Here’s the mag’s entire in-depth analysis of the situation (step back so it doesn’t gush all over you):

Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, may seem an unlikely figure to lead the rebirth of South Carolina’s Republican Party. But when the stiletto-heeled 38-year-old bested three white men to win its gubernatorial nomination in June, she proved that the good-ol’-boy culture of Southern politics is no match for a charismatic conservative newcomer who promises to shake up the Palmetto State.

But we may have a surprise for all of you alleged journalists out there — the first Lebanese-American Catholic ever elected governor in South Carolina. Oooohhh — exciting, huh? Personally, I couldn’t care one way or the other about the winner’s demographics. I just want to have an actual leader, one who has demonstrated some capacity to lead.

So how about getting all worked up later, huh?