Friday, September 26, 2014

Race of the Day- South Carolina Governor

39 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Likely Republican

Once a staunchly Democrat state, South Carolina is now dominated by the GOP at all levels. However, as the party went on to sweep all statewide offices in 2010, the Republican victory in the open Gubernatorial contest that year was somewhat closer than expected. This year, there is a rematch, with a wildcard thrown into the mix, and this race was supposed to have the potential to be quite interesting. It has not really developed that way though. The Palmetto State is just so conservative than it would take an extraordinary circumstance for a Republican to lose.

Four years ago, Nikki Haley, a young Indian-American State Representative completed a somewhat remarkable march to the Governor's Mansion of a Deep South state. On her path to becoming her state's first female and first minority Governor, Haley was hit with dubious allegations of marital infidelity and questions about personal spending, in the often rough and tumble world of South Carolina politics. Eventually, she placed first in a primary against much more well-known male Republican candidates and then easily won a runoff to become her party's nominee. Some aspects of the Old Guard of the GOP apparently continued to have issues with her proposals and with her personally, as she had a tough general election battle against Democrat State Senator Vincent Sheeheen. Her four point margin of victory on Election Night was somewhat closer than many expected and not consistent with what was an overwhelmingly strong year for Republicans in conservative states.

Nonetheless, Haley was Governor and considered one of the rising stars of the National GOP. Her endorsement in her state's important Presidential primary was highly coveted heading into 2012, although her support of frontrunner Mitt Romney ultimately did not help him win the state. While Haley was feted nationally and talked about as a potential Vice Presidential candidate, she continued to have political battles with some of the legislative leaders of her party in Columbia. Liberals across the country were not too fond of her either, and for a time, stories circulated online insisting she was about to be indicted for misconduct in her family's small business before becoming Governor.

The Governor was somewhat reluctant to formally announce intentions to seek a second term in 2014, but few doubted she would run. Many though thought she would face a very serious Republican challenge from at least one of her party rivals. The Democrats were satisfied early on with giving Sheeheen another crack at a general election, and some claimed that even if Haley were to win a bruising renomination battle, she might have a tough time winning a rematch against the now more well-known Democrat candidate.

Gradually though, the would be Republican primary opponents against Haley took their names out of consideration. She also continued to solidify her position within the party, with the popular appointment of Congressman Tim Scott to a U.S. Senate vacancy playing a part in that. Haley would not face a primary challenge after all, and a rematch with Sheeheen was a foregone conclusion. However, as has become a bit of a trend recently in South Carolina, some on the right continue to clamor for another option. Former Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, who had placed last in the four way 2010 GOP primary, declined to run as a third party candidate, but Tom Ervin, a former Republican State Representative and judge, who now owns some radio stations, has qualified for the ballot as an Independent.

Some believed that Ervin could shave off enough votes from the incumbent to give the Democrats a realistic shot at winning the election in November. A few polls even showed a very close two way race between Haley and Sheeheen. However, she is using a strong campaign fundraising advantage to her benefit and that seems to have prevented the Democrats from really getting into the game during a midterm election in South Carolina where Republicans will have the edge. Polling does not seem to indicate that Ervin has gained much traction, despite some heavy spending of his own, and the party seems more unified around Haley than it has in the past. A poll paid for by the South Carolina Democrat party did show a very close race, but not a lot of people tend to believe the race is indeed that tight.

The fission in the state GOP over Haley is somewhat unclear to me beyond the concept of some "Good Ole Boys" not really taking to her. That split will make this race closer than it should be, but recent polls show the Governor with a commanding double digit lead. Being the official GOP nominee in South Carolina, despite whatever drama exists behind the scenes, is a very valuable thing. Even with Ervin in the race, Haley is likely to beat Sheheen by several points more than she did last time, and she will get even more national attention in a second term.

Haley campaign link:

Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 14 D (1 Safe, 5 Likely, 4 Leans, 4 Tossup) , 16 R (4 Safe, 6 Likely, 6 Leans)
Overall totals predicted thus far: 21 D, 23 R (Democrat net gain of 1)


At 5:54 AM, Anonymous Conservative Democrat said...

Expect Haley to be a serious contender for the VP gig on the Republican side in 2016.


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