South Carolina cannot, it seems, escape the tawdriness of its politics. Today blogger Will Folks preemptively admitted to an affair with state Rep. Nikki Haley, who has jumped ahead of her fellow competitors in the South Carolina gubernatorial race, attracting the backing of such GOP names as Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Jenny Sanford.

Folks, who supports Haley, claims a network of nefarious South Carolina political operatives have been slowly leaking information about their affair, which he says happened before Haley was a candidate and before Folks himself was married. (Haley has been married for 13 years.) Folks wrote on his blog today:

Specifically, within the last forty-eight hours several pieces of information which purportedly document a prior physical relationship between myself and Rep. Haley have begun to be leaked slowly, piece by piece, to members of the mainstream media.  I am told that at least one story based upon this information will be published this week.  Watching all of this unfold, I have become convinced that the gradual release of this information is deliberately designed to advance this story in the press while simultaneously forcing either evasive answers or denials on my part or on Nikki's part.

I refuse to play that game. I refuse to have someone hold the political equivalent of a switch-blade in front of my face and just sit there and watch as they cut me to pieces.

The truth in this case is what it is.  Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki.

That's it.

I will not be discussing the details of that relationship, nor will I be granting any additional interviews about it to members of the media beyond what I have already been compelled to confirm...

Folks, Ben Smith reports, was on Haley's campaign payroll in 2008.

Haley, meanwhile, denies that the affair happened. She said, in a statement provided to a local South Carolina TV station:
"I have been 100% faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage. This claim against me is categorically and totally false.

It is sad, but not surprising, that this disgraceful smear has taken form less than a week removed from the release of a poll showing our campaign with a significant lead. It is quite simply South Carolina politics at its worst.

These attacks - and those sure to follow - are an effort at distraction, but I will keep my focus on what matters, and that is delivering South Carolina's government back to our people. That's a fight I have fought for the last five years. That's why I entered this race for Governor. And that's what I will continue to do, despite any outrageous and false claims that are thrown at me."

Sarah Palin, meanwhile, steps in to defend Haley on her Facebook page. Palin says she warned Haley that she would be targeted by smears (with some implication that Palin knows this by experience, as Palin has complained many times of unfair treatment by political opponents in Alaska and by the national media). Palin wrote:

Well, whaddya know? South Carolina's conservative candidate, Nikki Haley, recently zipped to the front of the line in her state's race for governor; and lo and behold, now accusations of an affair surface.

Nikki categorically denies the accusation that was spewed out there by a political blogger who has the gall to throw the stone, but then quickly duck and hide and proclaim he would not comment further on the issue. Quite convenient. 

When Nikki and I held her endorsement rally on the steps of the beautiful and historic South Carolina state house a few weeks ago, I warned her and her family that she would be targeted because she's a threat to a corrupt political machine, and she would be put through some hell. That, unfortunately, is the nature of the beast in politics today - especially for conservative "underdog" candidates who surge in the polls and threaten to shake things up so government can be put back on the side of the people. 

South Carolina: don't let some blogger make any accusation against your Nikki if the guy doesn't even have the guts or the integrity to speak further on such a significant claim...

Haley collected 30% support in a recent poll; her nearest competitor, Attorney General Henry McMaster, collected 19%. That makes Haley the favorite to win the GOP nomination. The other candidates include Rep. Gresham Barrett and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.

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