Breaking Barriers, Dirty Stuff in South Carolina

Nikki Haley, favorite to win South Carolina's Republican nomination, is getting lots of good press these days. On our site, Erin McPike had a good rundown of Haley's chances to break a bad streak for women in politics; at Politics Daily, Walter Shapiro poses Haley's struggle as one to break racial barriers in the face of dirty politics.

Haley's rise was a dramatic one: she leapt ahead in polls by 30 percentage points over the course of three months to become the odds-on favorite, attracting endorsements from Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney on the way.

All this in spite of the fact that, in South Carolina political circles, Haley is a somewhat divisive figure. She's endorsed by Jenny Sanford, but it's not completely clear that she has tons of friends.

There is also the small matter of the affair accusations. Blogger Will Folks, who comes off as sort of seedy and maybe less than reliable, claimed he was pressured/blackmailed with evidence of an affair with Haley, and came out and penned an admission on his blog, FITSNews. And he backed it up with text messages, which, of course, theoretically could have been fabricated. Then lobbyist Larry Marchant gave some details of an alleged one-night stand with Haley at a conference. He had been working for the campaign of Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, a rival of Haley's in the race, demanded Marchant's resignation. Marchant took a polygraph, the results of which were inconclusive.

This probably qualifies as dirty politics, whether or not the allegations are true; Folks's arm appears to have been twisted, or his wheel greased, or some strange combination of the two, given his previous support for Haley.

But with Marchant's claim, the story is gaining momentum, and what appeared to be an out-of-left-field allegation by a narrator (Folks) who seems like quite a character and might not be telling the truth...well, it's maybe got some legs. Polygraphs are now involved.

Regardless, the story of Haley's campaign seems to be way more complicated than either simply a breaking of gender and race barriers, or victimization at the hands of lying scumbags.

If no candidate reaches 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff in two weeks. Haley polls at 43% right now.

If polls are any indication, it's going to be an interesting two weeks.