Haley Muddies the Waters

It’s not every day a governor gets to place someone in the United States Senate, so I guess you can forgive Nikki Haley for milking as much publicity as she can from choice of a replacement for Jim DeMint.

But the “short list” she’s now put out simply draws more attention to the fact that she hasn’t already made the choice national conservatives are begging for, reportedly reflecting DeMint’s own wishes: Rep. Tim Scott, the African-American right-winger from Charleston.

Scott’s on the list, to be sure, but so, too are two women who sort of muddy the diversity waters: Jenny Sanford, the aggrieved former wife of the adulterous former Gov. Mark Sanford; and Catherine Templeton, the union-baiting former head of the state labor department who now runs the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Sanford is no token: an wealthy heiress and investment banker who was long considered her husband’s chief political strategist, she’s a force to be reckoned with in SC conservative politics, and has some close personal ties to Haley, though not as close as those possessed by Templeton, the living symbol of Haley’s signature hatred of unions.

Conspicuously missing from Haley’s list is Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who is probably more popular with serious Palmetto State wingnuts than Scott. But she does include another Tea Party favorite, Rep. Trey Gowdy, who is the only member of the list from the GOP-heavy upstate region. Former Attorney General Henry McMaster, who was originally thought to be a “placeholder” possibility, rounds out the list.

FWIW, Haley’s most prominent SC Republican critic, the well-connected if disreputable blogger Will Folks, rates Sanford the favorite. While passing over Scott would undoubtedly annoy the national conservative types who want him as a trophy, Sanford would probably be a very popular pick back home.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.