In 2010, S.C. Senator Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden) gave “Republican” Nikki Haley all she could handle – coming from more than twenty points down in the polls to dead even in the last week of the race. Had Sheheen received a little bit more money from national Democrats at the eleventh hour, he could have easily knocked off Haley – scoring would have been one of the biggest upsets in Palmetto political history.
Unfortunately for Sheheen, he didn’t get the national support he needed – and Haley rode a wave of straight ticket GOP voters to a four-point victory, a pretty underwhelming margin when you consider South Carolina is the “reddest state in the nation” and 2010 was a banner “Republican” year.
Anyway, Sheheen is poised to give Haley another run for her (special interest) money in 2014 – although as we’ve mentioned previously he is unlikely to defeat her. The main reason? The socially conservative Democrat is unable (or unwilling) to stake out the ideological ground necessary to pick up the votes he needs to beat Haley. In fact he’s running hard to the left on fiscal issues – which will doom him among independent conservatives voters who are eager for an alternative to Haley.
Sheheen may have another problem, though – Democratic drama.
According to multiple Democratic sources familiar with the situation, the 42-year-old politician agreed to inform two of his longtime political allies – S.C. Sen. Joel Lourie and former S.C. House minority leader James Smith – of his 2014 plans prior to announcing them.
Why would he do that? Because Lourie and Smith both have an interest in running for governor at some point in the future. In fact Lourie had hoped to run in this election.
“Joel believed – and still believes – it was his turn to challenge Haley,” one well-placed Democratic operative told us.
Did Sheheen make good on his promise? No … at least not according to our sources.
Officially, top Democrats are discounting the report – with one referring to it as “Republican mischief.”
“Sometimes I think your sources play you,” another said, confirming that Sheheen, Lourie and Smith are all “on the same page.”
We’ve said for years that Smith – an Afghan war veteran – would make a much more appealing statewide candidate than Sheheen. And there are plenty of Democrats who agree with us. Looks like he’ll have to wait four years longer than expected to get his shot, though.