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WILL FORMER REPUBLICAN LEADER RALLY BEHIND HIS GOVERNOR?

There’s a lot of talk in the political world these days about “manhood.”

Liberal opinion writer David Brooks of The New York Times invoked the term in an interview over the weekend about U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, saying Obama had a “manhood problem in the Middle East.”

That interview has the White House apoplectic.

Here in the Palmetto State, the manhood question is being raised in relation to former S.C. Republican Party (SCGOP) chairman Katon Dawson – a GOP consultant who has been raising big dollars on behalf of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley‘s reelection.

Or so he says …

Dawson has a reputation in Palmetto political circles as an advisor who collects exorbitant retainers  – but produces very little in the way of actual “product.” In other words a disproportionate amount of the money he raises to defend his clients (or attack their enemies through independent expenditure groups) winds up in his bank account.

Dawson is on the spot now, though.

Haley is under attack from “independent Republican” petition candidate Tom Ervin – who has launched a statewide media blitz in support of what is expected to be a very well-funded general election campaign. Should Ervin (and Libertarian Party gubernatorial nominee Steve French) succeed in peeling GOP support away from Haley, she could be in real trouble come November.

This week, Ervin’s campaign launched its first television advertisement – a thirty-second spot that takes direct aim at some of Haley’s highest-profile failures. And there’s more where that came from, sources tell FITS – both from Ervin’s campaign and from independent groups supporting him.

Will Dawson respond? Will he “be a man” and defend his governor’s honor (to the extent she ever had any)?

Sources close to some of Haley’s highest profile financial supporters – who have stroked big checks to Dawson – are pushing him to do just that. They are also demanding to see value for their investment in the governor’s reelection.

“(Ervin)’s thrown a solid punch at her,” an advisor to one of Haley’s top donors tells FITS. “(Dawson) needs to punch back. And keep punching back.”

Haley backers aren’t the only ones watching – and waiting – to see what Dawson does. His GOP consulting rivals are also prodding him to defend Haley – albeit less tactfully.

“Hasn’t he been to enough whites-only debutante balls to know the gentlemanly thing to do here?” a rival Republican consultant told FITS, referring to Dawson’s participation in a pair of exclusive Columbia, S.C. society organizations. “If the governor is weakened by this – all Republicans are gonna be weak in 2014.”

Since securing the GOP nomination in 2010, Haley has abandoned the Tea Party that powered her statewide rise and embraced the GOP establishment. And at the national level, that establishment is embracing her back – most notably by savaging her Democratic rival, Vincent Sheheen.

Will Dawson and the state GOP establishment follow suit and defend her from Ervin’s broadsides?

That remains to be seen …