Sunday, December 11

South Carolina's crush on Nikki Haley is over

A year ago, it seemed everyone in South Carolina had a political crush on Nikki Haley.  She had not even taken office yet, and politicos were wondering if she would be nominated for Vice President.  A book deal was done.  If a man had video and DNA about an affair with Haley, the South Carolina press would have ignored it.
34% approve of Governor Haley

Haley and her minions were in a strong position to really influence South Carolina.  For the better or worse, it appeared Haley would be a force in Columbia to be reckoned with.  That has not happened. 

Instead, Haley ranks as one of the most unpopular and ineffective Governors in the nation.  A Winthrop University poll has Governor Haley's approval rating at 34%.  Only 52% of Republicans surveyed support Governor Haley.  Another poll has President Obama's approval rating at 44%.

Those are dismal numbers for a Governor who has not finished a year in office and a drop of nearly 30 points.  

Ironically, Governor Haley is going through exactly what President Obama went through in sudden unpopularity.  Like the President, Governor Haley was the anti establishment candidate who had incredible good will from the press.  People were truly inspired to vote for her as they were for President Obama.  

Then, reality hit.  The Governor and her staff have proven to be typical politicians, with the pettiness and the selfishness that people were already fed up with.  Their confidence, outsider status and youth, once thought of as refreshing, is now seen as smug and inept.  

The drop began with a rather arrogant act by the Governor and her people.  Only a few months into office, they decided to issue "report cards" about members of the General Assembly.  Those report cards were based on how a member agreed with Governor Haley on a set of issues.  They made it clear from the start of the session that legislators would be punished.  Thus, Haley and her people tried to use political coercion instead of persuasion.  It smacks of the Chicago style tactics President Obama's former chief of staff used at the the start of the Obama Administration.

Such tactics, especially in the midst of a bad economy, will and did backfire.  The goodwill from the press and the chattering people around Columbia is over. 

Indeed, some of those people are angry and motivated.  Things that might have been once overlooked, such as questionable political ties to the Savannah port deal, the activities of the Mansion Chef, the First Spouse wanting a modern wine cellar, the free booze, the yacht ride, etc., get focused on. 

Such things have happened before under a South Carolina Governor.  Rumors about luxurious excess, affairs and defacto bribes have circulated before about a number of Governors.  People expect that from politicians.  

But, when a politician gets elected by playing the victim of dirty tricks and a promise to be open and clean in a time of great trial for the state, and opens up by attacking people who criticize or disagree with her without a real effort at persuasion and compromise, the political tigers start waiting in the tall grass, ready to pounce.     

The people pay attention to those political tigers because they are hurting and expected more from the Governor than politics as usual.  People feel fooled.  

People also do not like being told that the man or woman that they elected from their community is not worthy to serve because some person they never heard of who works in the Governor's office thinks so.  When a Governor who is attending "high roller" fundraisers in Atlanta and riding a yacht goes after a member of the General Assembly who people in his community know personally and like, the Governor loses goodwill.  And, the member of the General Assembly is actually empowered more not to do what the Governor wants.  

Some will argue that the economy is the reason.  It a reason in that people demand more from politicians.  However, it is more likely that a young Governor and her staff, elected with a modern marketing campaign in a time of trial, lacks the depth of experience to understand how things work with people, and further seems to lack the respect for people, elected officials and the state to actually try to learn instead of demand. 

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