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S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has told several prominent Palmetto state fundraisers that she is leaning toward an endorsement of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, sources tell FITS.

Obviously, we’re taking these reports with an ocean of salt – particularly in light of recent attempts by certain South Carolina politicos to suggest an imminent endorsement of Romney by U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (reports DeMint vigorously rebuked).

If the reports are accurate, though, it would mark the second time Haley has endorsed the former Massachusetts governor (she backed Romney in 2008 when he finished a disappointing fourth in the state’s “First in the South” presidential primary).

Haley hasn’t publicly said who she will endorse – only that she’s likely to make her pick in December (oh, and that it won’t be Jon Huntsman).

Obviously the governor’s nod isn’t as important as it once was. Her repeated missteps in office – along with the state’s rising unemployment rate and deteriorating economic outlook – have resulted in an anemic 41 percent approval rating for the governor, who is only nine months into her first term in office.

Also, Haley is clearly at odds with both the state’s Tea Party as well as the SCGOP – raising questions about whether her endorsement brings anything with it (other than baggage). Don’t believe us? Look at the small crowds that attended her recent “Join the Movement” town hall events.

In fact, according to the results of a FITS poll published in late August, a whopping 90 percent of our readers said that Haley’s backing would make them “less likely to vote for that candidate.”

For months, speculation among “First in the South” analysts has centered around the likelihood that Haley would endorse Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In fact, questionable fundraising activities by longtime Haley confidant Eleanor Kitzman (first reported on here and here by FITS) have reinforced those suspicions.

There’s also a piece in the Texas Observer that raises similar questions.

However, with Perry now polling in single digits in South Carolina, Haley may be backing off of her original plan … well, make that her secondary plan (Haley was originally rumored to be “in the bag” for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out of the race in August).

Or it could just be evidence that Haley has been playing the Texas governor – and the rest of the 2012 field – the whole time. After all, as we reported several weeks ago, Haley was never as impressed with Perry as she let on in public.

As for Romney, the governor has sent mixed signals.

Most significantly, she took a pass on criticizing Romney for his failed socialized medicine plan – which formed the blueprint for U.S. President Barack Obama’s socialized medicine monstrosity. In fact, Haley said that Romney “showed a lot of courage” in offering his health care vision and that there were “mixed reviews on whether it worked or not.”

Really? “Mixed” reviews?

Romneycare” has been an unambiguous failure, costing the Bay State 18,000 jobs and driving up the cost of health insurance by an estimated $4.3 billion. Additionally, fraud has been rampant, physician wait times have increased and the program is expected to exceed its original cost estimates by more than $2 billion over the coming decade.

Anyway, Haley’s relationship with Romney was called into question when reports surfaced this summer that she refused to let him stay at the Governor’s Mansion during a Palmetto state visit earlier this year. Several of our sources, however, hinted that the “sleight” was really an attempt to put some distance between the politicians.

“One school of thought is that Haley is secretly in Romney’s camp (as she was in 2008) but doesn’t want to appear to be too close to him too soon,” we wrote at the time.

Haley has since opened the gates of the mansion to all presidential candidates – and even let Romney’s wife stay there during a visit two weeks ago.

We’ve made no secret of our contempt for Romney. We believe he’s quite possibly the most disingenuous, ideologically-bankrupt politician the Republican party has ever seen – which is obviously saying something. At one point or another, he’s supported literally all of the failed policies of the Obama administration – and the fact that he remains among the GOP frontrunners in the race to replace Obama baffles us.