By all accounts, SC Gov. Nikki Haley’s big announcement that she’s running for another term didn’t exactly sizzle with electricity. According to Reuters, only 60 people showed up (some of them protesters) at the “rally” for the perpetually embattled Haley, even though, as usual, she brought along celebrity out-of-state validators. Back in 2010, that meant Sarah Palin, who begged South Carolina conservatives not to believe the mean and nasty stuff being said about “your Nikki” by right-wing blogger Will Folks or other critics. Now it’s fellow GOP governors and alleged “conservative reformers” Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and Scott Walker. Only Rick Scott was missing, but his support for some sort of Medicaid expansion probably made him persona non grata.
Haley is generally rated a modest favorite for re-election in a heavily Republican state. But she underperformed in 2010, the best Republican year since at least 1994, beating Democratic state legislator Vincent Sheehen by only 60,000 votes. Her job approval ratio in the last public measurement, a Winthrop University poll in April, was a mediocre 43/46. And Sheehen is running again.
Most unluckily for “your Nikki,” the Folks saga won’t quite go away, since his spokesperson during the 2010/2011 brouhaha over his allegations of an illicit affair with Haley, Nancy Mace, is the smart-money favorite among right-wing challengers to Sen. Lindsey Graham.
I don’t know if Haley plans to bring Palin back in to work the victim-of-Republican-Establishment-and-liberal-media angle for her in this cycle. Clearly, St. Joan of the Tundra isn’t the world-beater she used to be. But she could still probably draw a crowd of a lot more than 60 people in South Carolina without breaking a sweat–even in late August.