As the campaign for governor slides toward election day, 36 days hence, we learn more about the short-comings of Republican front-runner Nikki Haley. Although none of the revelations – late tax payments, accounting errors, unreported income – indicate anything illegal or even unethical, voters are given a glimpse of a flawed, considerably less than perfect candidate.
No one expects any politician to be perfect or come remotely close to it. Those looking for perfection shouldn’t be searching for it anywhere in the political realm. There are either eyebrow-raising legislative sponsorships, questionable associations, personal foibles and/or other burrs on the finish that reveal the person behind the public relations myth.
In all likelihood, at any other time Nikki Haley would not be the Republican nominee for governor, much less the runaway best bet to win election. So, why now?
The proverbial stars truly aligned in Haley’s favor in 2010. Thanks to Barack Obama and the sharp left turn Congress has taken in the last two years, the entire country is doing a major sphincter clinch and nowhere is the pucker tighter than in South Carolina. But despite the screams of political constipation from the electorate, the state’s GOP cast for the part of Governor – with the exception of Haley – was the usual group of establishment white guys, each coated with a good-ol-boys sheen of “same old, same old.” The populace, however, is rejecting “same old, same old” and Nikki Haley stood out in the group of aspirants like, well, like Sarah Palin at a John McCain rally.
Gender and ethnicity didn’t matter – a first in the neon red Palmetto State – and Haley took the Republican nomination like Longstreet at the Battle of Second Manassas. [Please: no Civil War-related comments. This is a one-time metaphor.] The rise and popularity of Sarah Palin helped considerably as conservatives nation-wide embraced a strong female presence to represent their values and Haley was able to cash in on that serendipity.
And, true to form, the Democrat opposition, following the old script, has given the audience another central casting candidate in State Senator Vincent Sheheen.
I do not mean to suggest that Nikki Haley is the lesser of a number of evils. Despite negative revelations (with the customary “October surprise” likely to come), she remains the best candidate for governor of South Carolina. Politics is as much a game of timing as it is qualification and Haley’s campaign has been the benefactor of both fortuitous timing and her own political skills.
Nikki Haley will become South Carolina’s next governor – a good thing in my opinion. She isn’t flawless nor will her administration be. But just as she has benefitted from political happenstance, so, too will the state ultimately gain the advantage of her good fortune.