How Nikki Haley Trounced South Carolina Opponents

The besieged Republican won 49 percent in a four-way contest

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The four-way race for the Republican nominee for South Carolina governor has ended with State Rep. Nikki Haley securing the most votes, although she will face a run-off vote against Rep. Gresham Barrett on June 22. Haley, despite or perhaps because of the personal attacks leveled against her, won 49 percent of the vote. Had she secured only one percent more, she would have avoided the run-off against Barrett, who fared much worse with only 22 percent. Here's how she did it and what it means.


  • Personal Attacks Helped Haley  The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza is awed at the high turn-out. "Those numbers suggest that the allegations of infidelity directed toward Haley in the final week of the campaign -- not to mention the ethnic slur about Haley that came from Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts -- had the opposite effect of most negative campaigning: it made people MORE likely to vote and MORE likely to vote for Haley. Given that dynamic, a runoff victory seems a near-certainty for Haley."
  • Modernizing, Multicultural GOP  Slate's John Dickerson predicts, "If Haley wins, it could help improve the image of the South Carolina GOP, which has stumbled since the adultery scandal that disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford—and which has some comic-book villains. She would be the favorite in November, which means that the Republican Party, still dogged by its history of preying on white-Southern fears about African-Americans, would have two Southern governors of Indian descent."
  • She Is Tea Party Favorite  The Economist's Democracy in America points out, "Ms Haley is also a tea-party darling; Jenny Sanford and Sarah Palin endorsed her as well." The Moderate Voice's Michael Stickings puts it differently: "What I take from these and other Republican contests is that the GOP is entrenching itself as a party of rigid ideological extremism, much of it related to teabagging. As if we didn’t know that already."
  • State GOP Establishment Already Backing Haley  The Washington Post's David Weigel reports, "A surprisingly blunt press release from the Republican Governors Association all but calls for Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.) to stand down and let Nikki Haley start running for governor of South Carolina. ... Message: Republicans are ready to celebrate their newest star." Weigel also predicted that Haley would win the governorship and be selected by the GOP to give the State of the Union response in 2011.
  • Palin Nod Helped Secure Conservative Cred  CBS News' Brian Montopoli notes that Sarah Palin's endorsement "helped skyrocket Haley to the front of the crowded GOP field." He adds, "Haley, who pushed herself as a conservative, pro-family candidate, effectively weathered it all; she went into Election Day with a 20-point lead, according to a weekend poll. She was hoping to shift her focus to the general election after today's contest but will now need to continue battling Barrett."
  • Waning Influence for 'Good ol' Boys'  Politics Daily's Mary Curtis writes, "It was supposed to be 'politics as usual' with the usual results. Paint a female on the rise with 'the scarlet letter' and, for good measure, remind people that her parents came from 'someplace else' where the people are dark and may wear a turban. Then sit back – preferably with a cigar in one hand and a bourbon in the other -- and watch said candidate slink away as voters run back to a Daddy figure who knows best. ... Whether you agree with the policies of the woman who wants to be the first female governor of South Carolina, you might take some comfort that the mud that's slung no longer sticks."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.