Our primary elections are next Tuesday, June 8th, and in South Carolina we vote on every office. There is no registration by party in South Carolina. A registered voter goes in on primary day and asks for the Republican or Democrat program for the voting computer. (Every precinct in the state uses identical electronic voting machines, by the way.) Voting in the Democrat primary in statewide races is like picking the Washington Nationals to win the World Series: a pointless activity.
So, though I've never been a registered Republican in my 38 years of voting, I'll ask for the Republican ballot and vote among over 30 candidates in a dozen or so races. DeMint for Senate of course, Mulvaney for the right to knock off John Spratt this November, Loftis for State Treasurer and on and on and on.
But the race that suddenly got national attention a few weeks ago is for Governor. Two of the candidates had run and won statewide office before: McMaster the current AG, and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer. (In SC the Lt. Gov. does NOT run with the Governor like the US President/ Vice President. I've seen some outside reports that assumed that Andre Bauer was Governor Sanford's "running mate." That's not true.) As statewide office holders McMaster and Bauer polled ahead of Gresham Barrett, a US Representative from an Upstate district, and Nikki Haley, a state representative, on name recognition if nothing else.
Then a few things happened to upset the old boy network that wanted a Bauer win at best or, at least, a McMaster/ Bauer run-off. And, when you talk about The Old Boys, in South Carolina you're talking about Sanford enemy Jake Knotts and his crew.
First a few groups started to throw support and funding behind Sanford protege Haley. That helped her a bit, but nothing like what happened when Governor Sarah Palin left the NRA convention in Charlotte and stopped in Columbia to endorse Nikki.
Polls after the Palin endorsement showed Nikki Haley leaping from 4th to 1st. McMaster was now running second and that meant ol' Jake Knotts had a problem-- his boy Andre was out of the running and wouldn't even make the June 22nd run-off. But, coincidentally I'm sure, slime started oozing out of the dark corners of the state. First a hapless blogger leveled a dirty smear without any evidence. When that seemed to go nowhere a Bauer aide leveled a similar, sad, laughable attack on Haley. Since there was no evidence for this one either the electorate seemed to be seeing through it.
So, desperate, Knotts last night played trump. He intimated, in public on an Internet radio program that Nikki Haley isn't the Methodist she claimsto be, in fact ol' Jake said that like Obama, she's a "raghead." The exact quote: “We already got one raghead in the White House. We don’t need another in the Governor’s Mansion.”
And so this is what the mighty fixer Jake Knotts has come to as he sees Andre Bauer's ascendancy in grave doubt. See, with his boy Bauer in the Governor's chair Jake and his crowd would be dippin' even deeper into the emptying trough down in Columbia. Since the office of Governor is weak by design in South Carolina (see: carpetbaggers and scalawags post- War Between The States for the reason) even a Mark Sanford or Nikki Haley can't keep the oily Knotts crew from their corruption. But the difference between a Haley vetoing their schemes and a Bauer rubber-stamping them is big. Big enough for Jake Knotts to pull out everything his ugly mind can think of-- but will the voters fall for the sleaze and insult campaign next Tuesday?
The days of guys like John Spratt and Jake Knotts are coming to an end. We hope it starts Tuesday June 8th. That would be change we can believe in.
UPDATE: Nikki Haley got 49% of the vote. Her closest competitor, who she will meet in a 6/22 runoff, was 27 percentage points behind. Jake's boy, Andre Bauer, finished dead last.