On the heels of a new poll showing a closer-than-expected gubernatorial race in “Republican-controlled” South Carolina, national Democrats are pumping money into the Palmetto State on behalf of their 2014 nominee, S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden).

According to a recent Public Policy Polling survey (obtained exclusively by FITS last month) Sheheen trails incumbent “Republican” Nikki Haley by a narrow 49-46 percent margin.  Even better news for Democrats?  The head-to-head poll did not include well-funded “Independent Republican” candidate Tom Ervin or Libertarian Party nominee Steve French – both of whom could steal votes from Haley if their candidacies gain traction.

The new ad – run by the Democratic Governors’ Association (DGA) – focuses on the rash of scandals at Haley’s Department of Social Services (SCDSS).

FITS has been on top of these scandals from day one – doing the work the mainstream media refused to do.  In fact we were the first website in the state to report on the agency’s negligence and complicity in the tragic death of four-year-old Robert Guinyard, Jr.

That’s the case that eventually broke the SCDSS debacle wide open … and ultimately led to the resignation of SCDSS director Lillian Koller, the woman Haley repeatedly referred to as a “rock star” throughout the crisis.

In fact Haley initially refused to accept Koller’s resignation – saying “you’re not going anywhere.”

In the DGA ad, former SCDSS attorney Betsy Burton addresses the scandal at her former agency …

(Click to play)

“When Governor Haley took office, things began to change,” Burton says.  “I resigned from DSS because we actually were leaving children in dangerous situations to make the numbers look better.”

“Nikki Haley is protecting her career instead of our children,” Burton concludes.

Ouch …

It’s worth noting the scandals at this agency – and allegations of manipulated data – extend far beyond its child welfare efforts.  There’s the ongoing failure of SCDSS on the state’s child support enforcement database – or the total lack of follow-through Koller’s agency has shown with regard to a food stamp waiver touted by Haley in her so-called “war on fat.” There are also questionable consultant payments and allegations of cooked books at its “welfare to work” program (as well as its food stamp system).

Haley’s scandals aren’t just limited to one agency, either.

In addition to Koller, Haley has been forced to accept the resignations of Abraham Turner at the S.C. Department of Workforce, Jim Etter at the S.C. Department of Revenue and Robert St. Onge of the S.C. Department of Transportation.

According to the DGA, its ad “is part of a significant six-figure buy.” The association also notes it is weighing in on the South Carolina governor’s race “far earlier in the cycle than when the DGA ran television ads in 2010.”

Our thoughts on the spot?

“Eh …”

Don’t get us wrong, the scandal at SCDSS is one of Haley’s most glaring vulnerabilities.  We’re just not sure this ad fully exploits that vulnerability.  For example: Where are the stock images of abused or neglected children?  And why aren’t images of Haley more prominently featured – seeing as she is the responsible party?  And isn’t a message like this better delivered by a professional narrator?

It just seems like the DGA left a lot of “bite” on the table in leveling this broadside against Haley …