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Take this with the proverbial ocean of salt, but a new survey conducted this week by a Democratic polling outfit is showing a much tighter S.C. gubernatorial race than many (including us) have been projecting. According to Crantford & Associates – a Democratic polling firm based in Columbia, S.C. – Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen trails Republican Nikki Haley by just four percentage points.

Wait … what? Isn’t Haley supposed to be running away with this thing?

Not according to the Crantford poll, which shows Haley holding a 45-41 percent advantage – with 13 percent of voters currently undecided.

Taken on September 30 – a week after both the Sheheen and Haley campaigns launched competing negative ads against each other – the Crantford poll surveyed 634 likely S.C. voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent.

Just a week ago, prior to the launch of the negative ads, a poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports showed Haley with a commanding 17-point lead over Sheheen. In fact, Haley’s lead hasn’t dipped below 12 points at any time since the general election began, according to Rasmussen.

So what do we make of this new data?

Not much, honestly. We do believe that Haley’s support has eroded a bit over the past few weeks, but this is a wave election, people. And South Carolina (electorally speaking, anyway) is among the reddest states in the country.

Accordingly, there’s no way we can see Sheheen being as close as this poll would suggest. And while at first glance the Crantford poll appears to have used a representative sample, it clearly doesn’t take into account voter energy – namely the fact that Republicans are pissed off and poised to turn out in droves on November 2, particularly in South Carolina.

That will help Haley.

Having said that, the GOP nominee hasn’t done herself any favors by endorsing a tax increase, backtracking on parental choice and giving up on the executive budget – one of the few weapons a governor has to hold spending in line. She’s also getting plenty of criticism for her shoddy record as an accountant (which she had previously bragged about as one of her top qualifications for holding office) as well as a pair of good ole boy deals that padded her pockets with undisclosed income after she was elected to the state legislature.

Could it really be that “Teflon Nikki” is experiencing “death by 1,000 cuts?”

We doubt it … but we’ll see …

Crantford & Associates S.C. Gubernatorial Poll