In dueling campaign appearances Friday in Rock Hill, Republican Nikki Haley pledged to lead a coalition of governors to repeal health care reform, while Democratic opponent Vincent Sheheen cast himself as the man to lead South Carolina out of eight years of embarrassment.
Haley told 100 supporters outside the local GOP field office that a vote for Sheheen is a vote for President Barack Obama's health care law.
"We won't just say no," Haley said. "We will give solutions. And I will protect the people of this state."
Sheheen has said he agrees with aspects of the health care reform including allowing children to stay on parents' policies through age 25 and requiring insurers to cover pre-existing conditions.
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He opposes mandates on small businesses and the increased costs the law will mean for Medicaid.
"Instead of talking about how to create jobs, how to improve public education, she's talking about traveling around the country" to block health care reform, Sheheen told reporters during a meet-and-greet at McHale's pub.
"She is way off base in trying to shift the focus to things she has no control over."
Haley said she favors limits on medical malpractice suits and allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines, a pair of changes widely supported by Republicans.
The Sheheen campaign released an ad Friday accusing Haley of failing to live up to her own campaign promises.
The ad features Haley making stump speeches while a narrator talks about how she repeatedly paid income taxes late. Haley family tax records show they filed and/or paid income and property taxes late several times in the past six years, accruing more than $4,500 in penalties and interest.
Haley said the experiences taught her about the hardships facing small businesses.
"My husband and I know what it's like to go through personal ups and downs," she said. "Yes, we filed extensions to get through the roller coaster rides. I do know what that's like."
Some polls show a tightening race. Last week, Columbia-based Crantford & Associates released a poll of 637 respondents that showed Haley with a 4-point lead.
Rasmussen Reports, a Republican-leaning polling firm, shows Haley ahead by double-digits.
Speaking to 60 people in an upstairs room at McHale's, Sheheen said voters are tired of seeing South Carolina become fodder for late-night talk show hosts.
"I don't know who the people running South Carolina are anymore, because they're not like you and me," Sheheen said. "Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley have had this state for the last eight years. Now it's our turn."
Haley shot back, saying Sheheen's only strategy is to bring her down.
"If he would spend as much time talking about what he's going to do with this state as he has talking about me, he'd probably be doing better in the polls," she said.