What to make of Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election kickoff bash last week in Greenville?
With as many protestors as supporters – officials pegged the attendance at 200 but pictures from the event would suggest that estimate was generous – the governor’s unsurprising announcement she will be seeking a second term in office started out with something of a whimper.
It wasn’t supposed to go this way. The Republican Party, desperate to keep one of the nation’s two Indian-American governors in office in an effort to garner more of that coveted minority vote, ushered some of its brightest stars to the Upstate in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, each with their own designs on future presidential runs.
True, a GOP Faith and Freedom rally featuring Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in nearby Anderson might have eaten into the time of some of the GOP faithful – they were serving barbecue in Anderson, after all – but Democratic supporters attacked the sparsely attended festivity as a sign challenger Sen. Vincent Sheheen has more than a fighting chance against the incumbent.
After all, Sheehen came within a nose of Haley in 2010 in good ole ruby red South Carolina at the height of the Tea Party craze. And with seismic data breaches and other miscues, Haley’s first term hasn’t exactly assuaged the fears that the lawmaker’s meteoric rise to the Statehouse might have been a bit too quick for the good of both her and the state.
Still, meager attendance for an expected announcement doesn’t exactly scream scramble mode yet.
This is more of a case of that old proverb, the one about familiarity breeding contempt.
True, Haley doesn’t always thrill the onlookers here – she has the support of less than half the state according to the latest Winthrop poll -- but the perception she holds outside of South Carolina is notable.
She gives the state a sharp, progressive feel that combats our often negative image.
For a state that needs a public relations boost from time to time, Haley can deliver the goods, and there is something to be said for that. The national GOP will have a close eye on the South Carolina gubernatorial race, so some more stumping from the party’s big guns is likely in the works.
And they will expect a bigger response next time.