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DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE’S GUBERNATORIAL BID IS ON LIFE SUPPORT

This week S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden) giddily trumpeted the passage of a “comprehensive” government restructuring bill – breathlessly promoting his authorship and advocacy of this “landmark” legislation.

“For nearly a decade, we’ve worked across the aisle to build a bipartisan coalition around my bill to overhaul state government and increase accountability,” Sheheen said. “Today, South Carolinians have results.”

Really?

If Sheheen considers slapping new labels on the same old failed bureaucracies, then yes … we have “results.” And South Carolinians will no doubt see the fruits of such “reform in name only” the way they always have. Seriously … look no further than what’s happening at the state’s “reformed” transportation department. Because the ongoing corruption and inefficiency there provides a nice preview of what the Palmetto State’s “restructured” government will look like …

Worse for Sheheen, his pyrrhic “victory” on restructuring comes at the absolute nadir of his 2014 gubernatorial campaign – which is limping into 2014 much as we predicted it would.

Let’s start with money – the lifeblood of any political undertaking – which is clearly flowing into the coffers of incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley (RINO-Lexington) at a dizzying clip.  At last count, Haley enjoyed a whopping 3-to-1 cash advantage over Sheheen, and thanks to a critical tactical error on the part of her Democratic rival all her campaign has to do is follow a simple script over the next few months to cruise to victory.

What are we referring to? Sheheen’s categorically bone-headed decision to embrace U.S. President Barack Obama’s Medicaid expansion in South Carolina – which Haley opposes.

Why is this such a big deal?

Well, since taking office in 2011 Haley has been spending tens of millions of tax dollars to expand Medicaid at a wildly unsustainable clip.

In fact Medicaid enrollment in South Carolina will grow by a whopping 16 percent in fiscal year 2014-15 – triple the projected rate of growth in the current fiscal year.  And while Haley never misses an opportunity to rail on Obama, the reality is South Carolina’s Medicaid population is growing much faster than the Medicaid populations in other states (including Obamacare states). In fact according to Kaiser Health News, South Carolina’s 16 percent Medicaid growth rate is larger than the 12 percent average increase in states which approved Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

In other words “Haleycare” is more costly than “Obamacare” – a shocking reality that could have opened wide the doors of the Governor’s Mansion to a smart Democrat.

Sheheen is not a smart Democrat, though …

Rather than seizing this opening, he has adopted the position that more Medicaid growth is needed – and attacked Haley for opposing Obamacare’s expanded dependency.

From a policy standpoint, such a position is indefensible. From a political standpoint? It is deadly.

Not only did Sheheen’s decision rob his campaign of a potent political weapon, it placed an even more potent weapon in the hands of Haley’s campaign – which FITS readers will recall narrowly eked out a victory four years ago thanks to third party ads attacking Sheheen as (you guessed it) an “Obamacare liberal.”

Did this guy seriously learn nothing from his last race?

Haley is an incredibly vulnerable incumbent. Her job approval ratings have remained chronically low, and major missteps by her administration (combined with her fundamental inability to tell the truth) have afforded broad avenues of attack for a savvy, well-funded opponent.

“She’s a house of cards – waiting to fall,” one GOP political operative told FITS.

But Haley isn’t going to fall … not without a radical reorientation of the current trajectory of the race, that is.

First and most importantly, Haley has no GOP primary opponent – meaning the march to the political “center” she began in 2010 has accelerated dramatically.  And why not? With no fiscally conservative, pro-free market candidate battling on her badly exposed right flank, Haley is free to compete for Sheheen more liberal voters while paying lip service to her “conservative” GOP base.

Haley also appears to have dodged the bullet of a credible third party challenger – or mix of third party challengers.

Multiple Democratic sources tell FITS that there is simply no enthusiasm for Sheheen’s campaign – while Haley’s ongoing march to the left has deprived prospective challenges of badly needed financial oxygen. Haley is also rumored to have reached private deals with some of Sheheen’s most important special interest backers – drying up prospective funding for him and prospective third party spoilers.

“No one is going to say it publicly but she has outflanked him to the left,” one Democratic operative explained.

Obviously momentum in Palmetto politics shifts on a dime – something Haley knows all about.  But at this point, her reelection in November looks like a lock.