South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has suggested that she may not run for re-election in 2014. To some, this is a surprise, to others a ruse, though it is most likely nothing more than honest musings. Still, the Governor has about six months to make up her mind and in that time, the speculation will be intense. So let’s get it started.
For all the criticism heaped upon her, Nikki Haley has made history in South Carolina – positive history. Her gender and her ethnic heritage are all firsts for the state’s chief executive and in being elected, she defeated far more entrenched Palmetto State politicians. Charismatic and young – she is the country’s youngest sitting governor – Haley has changed minds about South Carolina and the south.
Her adversaries’ attacks are often borne of a distaste for someone not of their politically inbred family as well as the unforgivable fact that she is a woman of color. Still, there are policies and positions Haley has taken that warrant criticism, but that is to be expected of any governor. There is the added encumbrance of the power the state legislature has over the office of the governor in the state. The Governor of South Carolina is, by design, one of the weakest such positions in the country and legislative leaders play that card at every opportunity.
For several reasons, not seeking a second term makes sense for Haley. The stated purpose of a campaign being “too much on the family,” putting her family and herself through the hatred spewed by her opposition for another four years must also be considered. There is also the point of her legacy. In politics, “legacy” means “the next job.”
Should Haley be defeated in 2014, her brand will lose the regional and national luster she now enjoys. Were she to win, but continue to be crippled by the state legislature or be otherwise unsuccessful in advancing the state, again, her brand would be tarnished.
Nikki Haley has a future in politics, but another four years in the governor’s chair may not be the best place to begin that future. She could become the next Sarah Palin – a conservative kingmaker – but she would be considerably more effective and, having served a full term as governor, with more solid credentials. There is also that $2 million war chest Haley could distribute should her donors permit. Given her political bent and the candidates she would most likely support, that shouldn’t be much of an issue.
The speculation, then, turns to her successor. The idea of a Democrat governor is not logical. If Republican Nikki Haley is marginalized by the state legislature, how effective would a Democrat be? South Carolina is still a very red state, though blue is shading more and more precincts. The usual crop of perennial candidates won’t appeal to younger voters or recent residents. Nonetheless, there are some stars in the Palmetto political environment that are popular, conservative and would continue the GOP hold on the Governor’s Mansion.
State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, like Haley, is known statewide by first name. Loftis has proven an adept and unflinching steward of taxpayer funds. He can go anywhere from Pickens to Pawleys and be greeted warmly. He is trusted by the voters and would be a pain in the ass to those legislators who have for so long slowed South Carolina’s progress.
A couple of members of South Carolina’s vaunted Congressional delegation have also been mentioned as possible gubernatorial candidates. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (SC-5) (left) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (SC-4) (right) have been featured in the national media as major conservative voices in various national policy debates. Both are no-nonsense, hard ball politicians whose records are testaments to their dedication to the wishes of the voters. Their Third District colleague, Jeff Duncan (center), has also been prominent in opposing the Obama agenda. Duncan was positively featured (as well as Mulvaney and Gowdy to a lesser extent) in the book “Ask Not What Good We Do” by New York Times Magazine author Robert Draper.
But the man recognized as South Carolina’s true rock star is Senator Tim Scott. Scott, a mega-popular African-American was First District Congressman before his appointment earlier this year by Haley to succeed Senator Jim DeMint. Scott will enter his first state-wide campaign in 2014 in a special election to fill the remaining two years of DeMint’s term. That is, unless he chooses another contest.
Sources – very good ones – tell me Tim Scott wants to be governor, possibly more than any other office. There can be no appreciable doubt that Tim Scott would obliterate any Republican Party opposition in the primaries (should any be so foolish as to challenge him) and there is no Democrat on Planet Earth who could come within a respectable second place to him in the general election.
In fact, Governor Tim Scott would do serious damage to the South Carolina state Democrat Party. With black voters aligned with Democrats for reasons they themselves cannot logically defend, a black Republican would serve both his ethnic brothers and sisters and his party as an honest and dynamic role model. And the political ripples would flow across not just South Carolina, but the South and, very possibly, the country.
Should Nikki Haley decide to run for re-election. Scott would likely continue as Senator. But whether Tim Scott decides to remain a Senator or run for Governor is a win-win for the state of South Carolina.