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In the bright red state of South Carolina –  where Republicans control every statewide office, enjoy huge majorities in both chambers of the state legislature and hold all but one federal office – one member of the Grand Old Party isn’t faring so well.

In fact that’s a colossal understatement …

First-year chief executive Nikki Haley, the state’s so-called “Tea Party” governor, has an approval rating that’s more than ten points worse than the approval rating of Barack Obama – the most liberal president in American history.

According to a new Winthrop University poll, a paltry 34.6 percent of registered voters approve of the job Haley is doing – well below Obama’s 44.8 percent mark. Meanwhile 43 percent of voters disapprove of Haley’s job performance. Also, only a bare majority of Republicans – 52.5 percent – approve of the job Haley is doing.

Democratic political consultant Tyler Jones pounced on the awful numbers.

“It is no surprise that South Carolinians are starting to turn on Nikki Haley,” Jones wrote in a memo published shortly after the poll results were first reported by The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper. “She is an overly ambitious, headline-seeking, corrupt politician who thinks the voters of this state are too naive to see that every thing she touches turn into a scandal. She literally cannot go one week without screwing something up.”

“(South Carolina) thinks Nikki Haley is ‘a tabloid politician and has no concept of governing,'” tweeted former WACH TV 57 (FOX – Columbia, S.C.) news director Bryan Cox said in response to the poll.

Back in February, Haley slammed Cox’s station on Facebook after it aired a segment featuring this website’s founding editor.

“WACH FOX 57 is a tabloid news station and has no concept of journalism,” Haley wrote at the time.

That exchange is just one of literally dozens of missteps Haley has made since being sworn in back in January.

After only eleven months in office, Haley’s numbers are already worse than those recorded by former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford on his way out of office. As most Americans are painfully aware, Sanford’s political career imploded in the summer of 2009 when he acknowledged having an extramarital affair with his Latin lover Maria Belen Chapur. The former governor managed to stave off impeachment and serve out the remainder of his term, but the scandal – and Sanford’s disastrous handling of it – significantly eroded his public support.

Whereas Sanford limped out of office, Haley limped in – narrowly defeating Democrat Vincent Sheheen despite the fact that the election was held in one of the most pro-Republican years in recent memory.

Nikki Haley's Approval Ratings

Despite their misgivings, though, most South Carolinians seemed willing to give the new governor a chance – as indicated by a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey taken in eary February.

According to that poll, 36 percent of voters approved of the job Haley was doing compared to only 24 percent who disapproved. Forty percent of the state’s electorate was undecided.

In late May, a poll done by Haley’s Maryland-based political consultant Jon Lerner showed the governor doing very well – enjoying a 57.5 percent approval rating among all voters and a 74 percent approval rating among Republicans. However this internal survey – which was released just as Haley’s unproductive first legislative session was winding down – was viewed by most politicos with suspicion.

“They were bluffing lawmakers,” one source familiar with the release of the survey tells FITS.

Two weeks later, in early June, these suspicions were confirmed when a new PPP poll showed Haley with a 42 percent approval rating. Three months after that, in early September, Haley’s approval rating had dipped down to 41 percent – with 43 percent disapproving of her job performance.

Obviously things have continued to erode … which isn’t surprising given the recent flood of scandals involving Haley ( including the already infamous “Savannah River Sellout“).

Can the young governor turn things around?

Sure … although she’s highly unlikely to do so prior to the Palmetto State’s “First in the South” presidential primary, which is being held on January 21.

Haley has pledged that she will endorse one of the Republicans running for president. In fact, she’s promised to do so prior to the Iowa Caucuses on January 3, 2012.

Conventional wisdom has Haley backing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, although prior speculation had her backing former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (who has since dropped out of the race) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (a one-time frontrunner whose campaign has since imploded).

Clearly Haley’s endorsement isn’t the draw it once was. In fact it may even be a liability.

“If I’m Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich, I’m telling Nikki Haley to stay the hell away from my campaign, before she destroys that, too,” Jones said.

The Winthrop Poll was taken between November 27 and December 4. Its margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percent.

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