Nikki Haley looked at one time earlier this year to be a possible candidate for Governor in the Republican Primary Runoff. Perhaps she still will, with the fluid nature of the Governor’s race. But, as of now, it looks like Haley is not going to make the runoff and her campaign is in trouble.
First, Haley, despite her natural charisma, did not raise competitive money in the last quarter. Those groups who support her fired away at Congressman Gresham Barrett, thinking he was their key opponent for the runoff spot. Those supporters underestimated two things going on in this election. First, Lt. Governor Andre Bauer seems to be building bridges with the “Tea Party” folks Haley was counting on. Her supporters attacked the wrong guy. Second is the Sanford aftermath.
Frankly put, Haley is indentified too closely with Governor Sanford. When pundits call Haley “Sanford in a skirt,” it is not about any personal things, it is about comparing Haley to Sanford in being too stubborn to work with other elected officials. Like Sanford, Haley has good ideas, but also like Sanford, people who matter seriously question her ability to work with people who do not walk lockstep with her. That is her weakness, and it damaging.
Add to that Haley faces a tough road as a woman running for Governor. The highest ranking woman official in South Carolina history was Lt. Governor Nancy Stevenson. Old timers tell us that Stevenson won because she had the knack for working with all types of people. Stevenson had no great ideological stances. Instead, Stevenson was known for her integrity and force of personality.
Haley, on the other hand is fighting the uphill battle of becoming a woman Governor in South Carolina with an ideological stance and mixed reviews on her force of personality. It might not be fair, but it is what it is. Haley cannot be elected as Sanford in a skirt. Haley has to show she is above all that and has the personality to work with those who disagree with her. The Haley campaign does not see that. They embrace the Sanford approach, despite the fact that Sanford’s approach failed the state and the conservative movement like few have. If Haley does not change her approach, she is done, relegated to endorsing another runoff candidate and hoping for a position in the next Governor’s cabinet.