Gov. Nikki Haley will win re-election comfortably over Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen because she has more money, more name recognition and a record “she is eager to be judged on,” according to a memo from her pollster-consultant obtained by The (Columbia) State.
“The governor’s race is (the Democrats’) only game in town, so I expect them to throw everything they have at it,” Jon Lerner wrote to members of the Haley campaign’s finance committee. “But their desperation to gain any foothold in the state should not be confused with their probability of success.”
Democrats say Republican Haley is ripe for defeat, citing her 44.8 percent approval rating among registered South Carolina voters in the latest Winthrop University poll. They also note Sheheen only lost to Haley by 4.5 percentage points in 2010, one of the closest elections in the country in a year that saw Republicans do particularly well across the country.
But Lerner – whose Washington firm also advised former Gov. Mark Sanford’s two gubernatorial campaigns – dismissed those Democratic claims as “utter nonsense.”
In the memo, Lerner says nine other 2010 governor’s races were closer than the Haley-Sheheen race. He also contends Haley has “added to her electoral coalition while not subtracting anything. And she has added it at Sheheen’s expense.
“For example, the organized business community, led by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, supported Sheheen in 2010,” Lerner wrote. “This time, they are actively and aggressively supporting Nikki. There is no major bloc of voters that supported Haley in 2010 that is not supporting her in 2014.”
The chamber has not officially endorsed anyone in the 2014 governor’s race. But Haley often touts state numbers showing companies have announced more than 36,800 jobs and $9 billion in capital investment during her term as governor. Democrats say those announcements have done nothing to lower the state’s high jobless rate – 8.1 percent, 17th highest in the country.
In the three-page memo, Lerner gives his “state of the race” three days before Haley formally announces her bid for re-election. He says the 2014 race will be different from 2010 because Haley “was largely unknown” then and “had to overcome the barriers of being the first female and first minority governor in state history.”
“None of those barriers exist this time,” Lerner said.
Democrats scoffed at the memo, noting it included no poll numbers to back up Lerner’s assertions of Haley’s strength.
“She is bringing in governors from other states to try to build a crowd,” said Andrew Whalen, Sheheen’s campaign manager, referring to Haley’s scheduled Monday rally in Greenville with fellow Republican Govs. Rick Perry of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. “There is no real support there for her.”