S.C. SENATOR LEE BRIGHT ABOUT TO FIND OUT …
The last time we checked, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s approval ratings were higher in the socially conserative Upstate region of South Carolina than they were elsewhere in the state.
Why? Probably because people like this live in the Upstate.
Haley surprised political observers over the weekend by issuing her first endorsement of the 2012 election cycle – weighing in on behalf of fiscal conservative S.C. Senator Lee Bright, who is currently locked in a death struggle against trial lawyer (and alleged rapist) John Hawkins.
“Senator Lee Bright has been a voice for reform in the State Senate – and I am writing to you today because we need to send him back to Columbia,” Haley noted. “Senator Bright has fought for less government at every turn and his conservative leadership in the legislature is needed now more than ever before.”
Will Haley’s endorsement help or hurt Bright? We’re obviously going to find out in short order, but before people (including us) begin assigning praise or blame it’s important to put this endorsement in its proper context.
First, Haley made the correct (and smart) choice by getting involved in this race. We haven’t been able to praise the scandal-scarred “Republican” very often during her first year-and-a-half on the job, but endorsing Bright was a no-brainer.
Now … did she do it out of spite (because Hawkins endorsed her Democratic opponent two years ago)? Probably … but that doesn’t change the fact that Haley will be perceived as weighing in on behalf of a vulnerable reformer at a critical moment in his campaign – and doing so against a candidate who is the personification of status quo sleaze.
That’s good for Haley … and she also deserves credit for weighing in on a race in which the outcome is still very much in doubt.
How close is the Bright v. Hawkins Senate race? We’ve seen a pair of polls in recent days – one that has Bright up by 4 percent, the other that has Hawkins up by 4 percent – and both surveys featured less than 12 percent of likely voters as “undecided.”
Are those the sort of voters Haley can move? We’ll find out, but when you get right down to it this is going to be a hard race to pin on Haley one way or the other.
For starters, the fact that a fiscal and social conservative like Bright is struggling to hold onto a seat in the Upstate is telling. Bright has a stellar voting record (one of the best in the state when it comes to protecting our tax dollars) but it’s clear at this point that he is far from an ideal candidate.
In addition to widespread reports of shoddy constituent service, Bright has struggled with tax issues and a flailing business. Obviously we’ll take a guy like that any day over a guy like Hawkins who repeatedly abused his position of power to pad his own bottom line … but still, there are several issues surrounding Bright which have (obviously) caused many voters to doubt him.
Translation? This race wasn’t ever really Haley’s to lose … but if Bright pulls ahead, it could be hers to win.
Of course the flip side of that coin is that if Haley is viewed more negatively than positively among the small population of undecided voters (a distinct possibility) then she could actually wind up costing Bright the election.
Which would be ironic …
What do you think? Cast your vote and post your thoughts in our comments section below …