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GOVERNOR TRAILS DEMOCRATIC RIVAL IN THE “REDDEST STATE IN AMERICA”

South Carolina is the reddest state in America (in more ways than one), but if the election for governor were held today State Senator Vincent Sheheen would turn it blue.

According to a new Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey, Sheheen currently leads Haley in a general election matchup by a 46-44 percent margin – with ten percent of respondents undecided.  Two years ago Haley narrowly defeated Sheheen in a “wave” Republican election – nearly blowing a huge early lead.

Sheheen said South Carolinians were “smart enough to know they deserve better.”

“I believe it’s less about me and more about the distrust the people of South Carolina have in our state government,” Sheheen said. “I believe the voters of South Carolina want a Governor that pays attention to our state and someone they can trust to make the right decisions for the economy, education and many other issues facing South Carolina.”

Haley’s team remained confident, though, with her campaign manager Tim Pearson telling The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper that “when it comes time for us to reenter the political ring with him, the results will be just as bad for Vince as they were last time.”

Maybe so … but Haley has a bruising road ahead of her if she wants to earn another four years.

Straight ticket voters were the key to Haley’s uninspiring 51-47 percent victory – bailing her out of a race she otherwise would have lost.  In June 2010 Haley was up on Sheheen by a whopping 21 points – but she coughed up the vast majority of that advantage in a disastrously managed general election campaign.

In the two years she’s been in office, Haley’s position hasn’t improved – even though the state’s unemployment rate has been on the decline.

“Nikki Haley won by an underwhelming margin in 2010 given the strong year for Republicans nationally,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “Since then she’s proven to be an unpopular Governor, and the political climate has gotten better for Democrats. Put those things together and she’s looking very vulnerable for 2014.”

Haley would still win a GOP primary, although 37 percent of Republicans say they would “prefer someone else” to be their nominee in 2014.

PPP is a Democratic-leaning firm based in North Carolina, although its Palmetto State results have proven remarkably reliable in recent elections.  The firm surveyed 520 South Carolina voters from December 7-9, and its poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

PUBLIC POLICY POLLING SURVEY (.pdf)

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