SOUTH CAROLINA POLITICS GETS EVEN UGLIER…. We’re just a few days away from South Carolina’s competitive Republican gubernatorial primary, and state Rep. Nikki Haley appears to be leading the pack, despite recent allegations of extra-marital affairs. But the race shifted from distasteful to ugly yesterday when a Haley detractor went after her ethnicity.

State Sen. Jake Knotts (R), who has endorsed a Haley rival in the race, appeared on a local radio show and said:

“We already got one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor’s mansion.”

For context, it’s worth noting that Haley was born Nikki Randhawa and raised in the Sikh faith. She converted to Christianity in 1997, and recently updated her website to emphasize her Christian beliefs.

But, frankly, that really doesn’t matter. Haley moving away from her previous faith is utterly irrelevant in the face of disgusting rhetoric from the likes of Jake Knotts.

After the South Carolina Republican Party “strongly condemned” the slurs, Knotts issues something resembling a half-hearted apology. The right-wing state official said his “raghead” comments were “intended in jest.” Knotts added, “I still believe Ms. Haley is pretending to be someone she is not, much as Obama did, but I apologize to both for an unintended slur.”

It’s hard to consider an “apology” like this one sincere.

Haley’s campaign spokesperson said in a statement, “Jake Knotts represents all that is wrong with South Carolina politics. He’s an embarrassment to our state and to the Republican Party.” He added that South Carolina is “so much better than this.”

I hope that’s true.

In terms of the politics, Nikki Haley is a far-right, Palin-backed candidate, running on a platform that would move South Carolina even further to the right. And yet, clowns like Knotts are actually managing to make her a sympathetic figure with their vile attacks.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.