Sunday, June 13, 2010
Barrett is taking the role of Joe Riley from 1994
Sixteen years ago, Democrats nearly nominated then Lt. Governor Nick Theodore for Governor in the primary. Theodore pushed the 50 percent mark, but fell short, forcing Theodore into a runoff with Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who was down in the 20s. Pressure was brought upon Riley back then to concede the race. Riley did not.
What occurred was one of the closest primary runoffs in South Carolina political history. Theodore won, but only barely, leaving him wounded in the fall campaign against David Beasley. Joe Riley, despite the fact he lost the runoff, was vindicated for running a runoff campaign by the closeness of the runoff vote.
Sixteen years later, Gresham Barrett plays the role of Joe Riley in the Republican Primary. Nikki Haley came close to winning the nomination outright last Tuesday, and Barrett trailed her back in the 20s. Like Riley, Barrett is running and not backing off. Some call him stubborn for doing so, but Barrett might be smart.
Primary runoffs are crazy things in South Carolina politics. Just four years ago, it seemed that Mike Campbell would whip Andre Bauer for the Lt. Governor’s nomination after beating Bauer well in the primary. Yet, Bauer turned out more voters in key counties than he did in the primary and won the nomination.
Bauer’s victory in 2006 is just one example of a long line of primary runoff upsets. Relatively few voters turn out to vote in the primaries, even less show up to vote in the primary runoff. Because of the limited number of voters who will show up to vote in the runoff, runoff elections are elections in which campaigns face a clean slate and compacted time in which to campaign. That is why VUI says when a candidate makes a runoff, all it really means is that it is time for that candidate to really go to work.
That said, Nikki Haley, like her or not, does not have the Republican nomination for Governor yet, despite what national media outlets such as NBC News say. Gresham Barrett still has something to say about the matter. Do not be shocked if Barrett, like Riley years ago, makes the primary a lot more interesting and closer than expected. Barrett has money and charisma. So far, Barrett is making the right move in not attacking Haley, which her campaign wants him to do.
Do not be surprised if “good girl” Haley has supporters who attack Barrett. It is how that crowd operates. They have their candidate talk about a positive campaign while supporters attack the opponent on the internet and through other media outlets. It is as effective as it is deceptive. It is how the people around Haley got Mark Sanford elected Governor and they are counting on the same tactics to get Haley elected.
The Haley campaign is pretty ticked that Barrett decided to make the runoff a race. That is for a reason. Once the spotlight got on the Haley campaign, they basked in the glow of charges of affairs and their denials of it. But, over the next week, real matters will come up, such as Haley’s attendance record in the SC House and her stands on issues. Frankly put, when you look at Haley’s ability to really get things done, her record is lacking.
Haley reminds VUI of ole Nick Theodore in 1994. People voted for ole Nick in the primary because they liked him. Then, when faced with the crucible of a runoff, people started looking at what he stood for, and damn near nominated Joe Riley, who supposedly had no chance. With moves like making Bill Connor her de facto running mate, Haley is going down that road. It could be a much closer race for Governor than people think, unless the Haley camp can come up with another questionable character who claimed he messed around with her.