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For whatever reason, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's come up a bunch in the comments over at Daily Kos Elections in recent days, with a lot of people wondering if she might be vulnerable to a challenge in 2014. Despite running in a very red state in a very red year, Haley only first won office with a four-point victory over Democrat Vincent Sheheen in 2010, and Sheheen (just 41) may well run again. But has Haley managed to recover her mojo—to the extent she ever had any? Maybe not, according to a new Winthrop University poll, which has her job approval rating at a rather mediocre 38-41. That's actually down a touch since April, when she stood at an even 37-37.
But why is Haley down in the dumps? I'd wager there are a number of reasons. Both sex and race could both be playing a role (Haley's parents are immigrants from India). But she also came into office as the protégé of disgraced ex-Gov. Mark Sanford, who alienated a lot of his fellow Republicans and of course departed office in humiliating fashion. While Haley's not quite the lone wolf Sanford was, like her predecessor, she's often had a rocky relationship with the legislature, and those ugly spats don't tend to play well for either side. A recent article in The Statesums things up well:
Critics say Haley has adopted an insular management style, surrounding herself with a small group of 20-something former campaign staffers, led until recently by a young chief of staff, with limited state government experience. She also employs an "us vs. them" mentality against her perceived foes.
Haley has alienated some former allies, made powerful enemies and damaged relationships with legislators who could have helped pass her agenda. A list of the bruised extends from Tea Party elements and the libertarian Policy Council, both of which once championed Haley, to fellow Republicans, including House Speaker Bobby Harrell.
The piece goes on to add that while Haley has managed to secure the support of the state's business community, lots of observers think she's more interested in national aspirations than what's going on back home. That's the sort of line of attack that could be extremely potent in a general election, since it would allow someone like Sheheen to go after Haley over a decidedly non-partisan issue—the kind of thing a Democrat running on red turf needs to be able to do. Haley has lots of time to turn things around before election day, of course, but without a course correction, she could indeed find herself in trouble.
P.S. Want one more bad sign for Haley? Obama somehow has a 48-41 approval score in this same Winthrop poll. Now, maybe that's a sign this survey perhaps leans a bit too Democratic, but regardless, for a Republican governor in South Carolina to chalk up a worse rating than a Democratic president ... well, that's pretty awful.
Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 07:00 PM PST.