Assessing Nikki Haley’s “Short List”

GOVERNOR NARROWS U.S. SENATE FIELD TO FIVE NAMES Sources close to S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley have provided CNN with her “short list” of possible appointments to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim DeMint. The list – comprised of U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, former S.C….


Sources close to S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley have provided CNN with her “short list” of possible appointments to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim DeMint.

The list – comprised of U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, former S.C. First Lady Jenny Sanford, former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, and S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) director Catherine Templeton – is sure to stoke all sorts of fresh speculation.  It raises as many questions as it answers, in other words … particularly as it relates to the inclusion of Sanford, who is emerging in the minds of many as the new favorite in this “race.”

And while we’ve reached the point of becoming cross-eyed over the constant speculation surrounding this appointment – it’s probably worth providing our readers with a bit of context regarding Haley’s five finalists (as well as our projected odds on their selection).

It’s also worth pointing out that aside from Sanford and Templeton – who are ideological mysteries – only Gowdy strikes us as having the potential to follow DeMint’s lead, making this a thoroughly unsatisfying list for fiscal conservatives.

Anyway, to the five finalists!


TIM SCOTT – U.S. Representative (SC-1)

The favorite from the moment DeMint announced his resignation, Scott would be a history-making pick – becoming the only black Republican in the Senate and only the fifth African-American to serve in that chamber since Reconstruction.

A first-term U.S. Representative from Charleston, S.C., Scott clearly wants the job – and is being pushed by national Republicans who are eager to bolster the party’s appeal to minorities.  He’s also being pushed by powerful interests from within South Carolina – and was among the most popular picks in a recent public opinion survey of Palmetto State voters.

In addition to all that, Scott hails from Charleston, S.C. – a politically independent region of the state where Haley is currently struggling.

No brainer, huh?  Not exactly.  Scott is not especially friendly with Haley, and his allegiance to fiscally liberal S.C. Speaker Bobby Harrell – a longtime antagonist – is viewed by many as a deal-breaker for the governor.

FITS ODDS: 1 in 3


TREY GOWDY – U.S. Representative (SC-4)

Trey Gowdy is another freshman U.S. Congressman – one who hails from South Carolina’s socially conservative (and reliably “Republican”) Upstate.  While not as high profile as his colleagues in the South Carolina delegation, Gowdy has been fairly consistent in his support of free market ideology – although his last-minute decision to back a “Boeing bailout” irked fiscal conservatives.  A former prosecutor, Gowdy doesn’t come across as your typical politician.  In fact we’re told he was seriously considering giving up his House seat in 2012 to pursue a judgeship – which is where is long-term interests supposedly reside.

Let’s be clear about one thing, though, Gowdy isn’t on Haley’s short list because of his ideology – he’s on the list because he represents a region of the state that Haley must keep happy if she is to have any chance at reelection in 2014.

Releasing a “short list” of candidates without a single name from the Upstate would have been a major slight … hence Gowdy’s presence here.

FITS ODDS: 1 in 20


JENNY SANFORD – Former S.C. First Lady

A brilliant political strategist, Jenny Sanford was the driving force behind her husband Mark’s meteoric political rise – managing his victorious congressional and gubernatorial campaigns for more than a decade.  A peerless intellect and relentless taskmaster, Sanford remains a mystery when it comes to ideology, though.

What isn’t a mystery?  Her popularity.

While we believe she overdid it in the aftermath of her husband’s extramarital affair (turning the whole “scorned wife” bit into an undignified cottage industry), most South Carolinians bought Sanford’s act.  As a result her approval ratings remain very high – particularly among the independent voters that Haley desperately needs to court if she hopes to revive her flagging fortunes.

Sanford holds a distinct advantage over the rest of the field, too, in that she is firmly under the sway of Jon Lerner – whom she collaborated with during her husband’s 2002 and 2006 gubernatorial bids and who is Haley’s political consultant.

In fact we think this race boils down to a choice between Sanford and Tim Scott …

FITS ODDS: 1 in 2


HENRY McMASTER – Former S.C. Attorney General

A thick-drawled, low intellect Southern political caricature, McMaster’s presence on this list is surprising.

The former SCGOP chairman and two-term Attorney General was viewed by insiders exclusively as a “placeholder” option – i.e. someone who would agree to serve until South Carolina voters selected a replacement for DeMint in 2014.  After Haley made it clear that she wasn’t interested in pursuing a “placeholder” pick, speculation surrounding McMaster dissipated … and with good reason.

Why is McMaster still in the running?  We don’t know … but given his background (as recently as three years ago he was still a member of a “whites only” country club), his appointment would be disastrous for Haley.  Even under normal circumstances, the dim-witted McMaster’s “Southern Partisan” roots would be enough to disqualify him.  With a black Republican having emerged as one of the early frontrunners for this seat, it would be political suicide for Haley to select McMaster.

Frankly, we view his inclusion as a sop to the political consulting empire of Richard Quinn – as well as a chance for her new “chief of staff” Bryan Stirling to save some face (Stirling – who used to work for McMaster – has been overshadowed during the appointment process by Tim Pearson, Haley’s “former” chief of staff).

FITS ODDS: 1 in 100

CATHERINE TEMPLETON – Director, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control

Earlier this week our founding editor was interviewed by a reporter at The Washington Post about Haley’s choices.

“Don’t forget about Catherine Templeton,” we told him, which prompted a predictable response: “Who?

“She’s a close friend of the governor who runs the biggest agency in the state,” Sic Willie told the reporter. “And she’s hot.”

Like Jenny Sanford, Templeton’s ideological leanings are a mystery – as are her political ambitions (assuming she has any).  The former employment lawyer has done a commendable job getting a handle on the sprawling S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) – although she has yet to take a position on some of the key structural issues confronting our duplicative, inefficient state government (presumably out of deference to Haley).

Templeton is smart, tenacious and well-connected to some of South Carolina’s top business leaders – plus she’s got extensive experience dealing with federal law in both the public and private sectors.

FITS ODDS: 1 in 10

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Billy December 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Templeton wasn’t qualitfied for the last two jobs da Gubna assigned her to,…..why not a third?

marshall December 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Catherine Templeton is “hot”?

Are you sure you didn’t mean to say fat?

mike December 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm

God, please don’t let it be Jenny Sanford, please.

Twinkie Ho-Ho December 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm

If she doesn’t appoint a pseudo-black, it will have to be a woman.

With Scott, Haley taps National GOP campaign money. With Sanford, Haley taps the Skil Saw family fortune.

Sanford is the one.

Knott December 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm

She should appoint McMaster if he agrees to be a placeholder and allow a fair and free election in South Carolina.

But she’ll appoint Scott (despite the fact Nikki hates blacks and went to a private high school so she wouldn’t have to be with blacks in Orangeburg), out of political pressure.

Nip/Tuck December 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Templeton might be losing the Battle of the Bulge, but she has struck back against Father Time with some serious plastic surgery over the past year.

One of the advantages of only showing up to work every few weeks? Time for the bandages to come off and the scars to heal.

Wonder how much longer Templeton will serve in public office before she has to get the vote of someone besides Haley?

Radiator December 12, 2012 at 12:08 am

What sort of plastic surgery? News to me. How do you know?

bogart December 11, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Jenny Sanford should be the choice…..just because.

ex-neighbor December 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm

How many pounders has Catherine put on? Needs to stay away from the liquor cabinet.

Hugh December 11, 2012 at 10:30 pm

No, Catherine the Great looks . . . well, great. Healthy, youthful, well-fed, beautiful skin, grand tetons, hefty ass, natural blonde, right up there with Mary Landrieu — another Southern piece of ass. If anybody has slept with this dame, please post her performance here.

Sam December 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm

This is all for show. The choice was made days ago when Scott made the committment to let Haley’s campaign consultant be HIS consultant.

That brings a fortune to Learner, freebies to Haley, and a big debt to haley from Scott.

Done deal.

Upstater December 11, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Lerner, idiot. Lerner. If you’re going to pretend to be a player, get the names right.

Lance Riprock December 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm

“Six months ago I couldn’t spell ‘Senator’, now I are one,” said any of the above. We would do better selecting our officials by random drawing of those filing tax returns. Tax returns! Don’t get me started!

Bob Marshall December 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm

This list is disturbing, Jenny Sanfor? Maybe the brains behind Mark, but we all know what happened. Is this list real or just a product of a grapevine rumor.

Nah December 11, 2012 at 4:49 pm

While flattering to a degree, my understanding is public office holds no appeal to Miz Sanford. She has nothing to prove or gain by that experience having already lived and worked in that cesspool. Look what it wrought? Me thinks she prefers her private life and charity work. Besides, her ex would probably be knocking on her door with his soulmate in tow looking for some patronage job or some appointment or another.

kc December 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Jenny Sanford, are you freaking kidding me? No! NO! HELL NO!

Bollywood Bob December 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Mark left her because she is like cold fish between the sheets – and couldn’t compete with the tan lines and the two magnificent parts of you. So why would we want her as Senator? We want sexy, like Nikki!

Will history repeat? December 12, 2012 at 11:14 am

As a narcissist, the reality is Mark was more likely the detached, unreciprocating, cold fish in bed until he met someone naive and new to supply his ego and fill his void.

carrie December 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm

I do think Jenny would do a good job as Mark said once that everything she does, she does well.

bogart December 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Jenny would never do it,she still has two boys at home and unlike her ex, she will put them first.

darksied calling December 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm

The short list: 1)Catherine Templeton-the negatives-too little respect, less understanding of the issues and impact on SC and its voters.Never run and won a statewide office. Positives-LuvGuv2 BFF, otherwise there aren’t any. 2)Jenny Sanford-the negatives-has an overall negative impression with many voters, the cold as fish ex-wife of LuvGuv1,never personally ran/won statewide race, 4 teenage sons at home so she will come off as a bad mom to the stay at home crowd;the positive-she was the brains behind LuvGuv1;3)Trey Gowdy-the negatives-outside of the upstate no name recognition,with light in loafers Lindsey from upstate that wont sail well with the coast, positives-his reputation as a prosecutor helped him sail to victory in both general elections but as FITS points out he really wants a judgeship.

That leaves two on the short list who LuvGuv2 willprobably approach-Tim Scott and Henry McMaster. Scott’s appointment might would help her with voters in the lowcountry and within some circles the AA vote. The downside is that it could look like the political equivalent of affirmative action. It also would take Scott out of contention to run against her in 2014.

That leaves McMaster-first keep in mind that while Jenny Sanford and Sarah Palin endorsed Nikki before the primary McMaster was the first one there after the primary. Also several of LuvGuv2 staffers worked for McMaster when he was AG and after the runoff, McMaster campaigned for Nikki while Andre and Gresham went home to lick their wounds. Also McMaster has a base in the SCGOP from his time as chairman and has run and won statewide races. But McMaster also has a huge drawback that can be summed up in one title (imagine this)Senator Foghorn Leghorn from SC.

If its McMaster expect a challenge from Scott in the 2014 primary; if its Scott-he sails thru the 2014 primary;if its Templeton/Sanford/Gowdy the 2014 primary could be a political bloodbath.

Joe Wilson Is A Very Smart Man! December 11, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Your belief in the political prowess of one of the biggest LOSERS in SC politics(McMaster) is touching.

What is it?Feeling sorry for the old boy?

Sure he’s been a loyal soldier,but he’s the weakest one of those being mentioned for the appointment.

He isn’t a major player and would be a decided underdog to almost any candidate of substance in 2014.

Bill Sherman December 11, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Ms Sanford is worth hundreds of millions. She has the class of grave robber.Writing a book about the embarrassment of a failed mattage.This social x-ray could never keep her mouth shut.Let her spend her money for the cosmetic surgery not the tax-payers

The Grim Reaper December 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Here’s what you guys should know. Mark Sanford’s antics began soon after Jeb Bush came to town to call him a friend. Mark Sanford disappeared a second time and reappeared kissing his wife the night of Nikke Haley’s party after her primary win. Why was he kissing Jenny if he told the world another woman was his soulmate? Because he’s a prick who helped elect a democrat as president so his boy Jeb could have a shot in the future. Fox News then hired Sanford to help him rehab his reputation. He’ll likely have a cabinet position in a Bush 45 white house. Did you also know SC’s last Royal governor, before we broke apart from Great Britain, married a woman from SC and his family was prominent in India (Lord William Campbell)? Seems like the Bush and Clinton families were trying to turn us back into Great Britain by keeping the power to themselves doesn’t it?

ICOMMUTE1.5HOURSTWODAYSAWEEK December 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm

god i hope its templeton

Rub A Dub Dub December 11, 2012 at 7:50 pm

There is still a lot of deadwood that needs clearing out or demoting.

Billy K Mulligan December 11, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Scott will get his ass kicked in the 2014 GOP Primary if he’s appointed. He’s not nearly. Battle tested enough for a Senate seat and looming Primary. We already have a Senate Chaplian so that shit will get old real quick. He’s not that bright either.

Joe Wilson Is A Very Smart Man! December 11, 2012 at 8:55 pm

What does not being “bright” have to do with it?

This is the SC Republican Party!

Joe Wilson,Alan Wilson,and well Demint himself!

This ain’t Brains Inc.!

Billy K Mulligan December 12, 2012 at 11:43 am

Good point Joe, this is the SC Republican Party. Is it just me or does Scott look like one of those waiters in Three Stooges episodes when the the boys wind up working in some rich ol lady’s house? You know, big white hat on the head, gets those big ol eyes wide open when something crazy or scary happens?

Olive Oyl December 11, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Nik may pik Jen because they are sympatico – throw-away husbands + no boobs.


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