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In defense of Nikki Haley and the unforeseen poison pill her endorsement could be to Mitt Romney in South Carolina

I have seen a lot of consternation Nikki Haley’s endorsement of Mitt Romney has caused among conservatives.  Now all I am going to offer is my observations and insight on how this whole thing is playing out and could play out.  Of course, this could have been all orchestrated a long time ago by the Romney campaign.  This is politics after all.

Nikki Haley’s approval rating in South Carolina is currently at 34% overall, with garnering only 52% among Republicans!  Now, I have to admit, I don’t follow what has been happening in the state capitols of all 50 states.  Therefore I am quite unfamiliar with how or why Governor Haley is apparently so toxic right now in the great state of South Carolina.

Time To Pay The Piper

When Haley’s campaign was getting started and in the beginning stages of the primary fight, Mitt Romney was arguably her first big endorsement.  At the time, tea partiers, conservative bloggers including Redstate, had been behind Haley’s candidacy prior to Romney’s endorsement.  I remembered how pleased at least I was that Romney was the first to get behind a conservative candidate like Haley.  Romney donated quite a bit, directly or indirectly, to the Haley campaign.  This was a bold, yet shrewd move by Romney.  If Haley wound up winning the governorship, he would undoubtedly be in the best position to get her endorsement in a very important state in the GOP nomination fight for the presidential ticket.  This did end up happening.

So whether by returning the favor as an expression of gratitude and obligation or pre-orchestrated payback, Haley did what Sarah Palin did for John McCain’s re-election campaign last year in Arizona.  She loyally endorsed the person who had given her a boost onto the big stage.  I don’t see a problem with this on the surface.

However, Governor Haley may have unknowingly as a matter of misfortune become a very important pawn in Mitt Romney’s campaign.  As you have all noticed, Mitt Romney has been more than willing to keep his distance from the conservative bloc of the Republican Party.  His campaign strategy apparently is to adopt and hold to most moderate stances that he has had to hold onto to keep the moderate and independent voters.  To get the conservative voters, getting endorsements from people like Governor Haley and other prominent conservative figures seems to be the strategy here.  If Romney can accomplish this, he stands a very good chance of winning the nomination and beating Barack Obama.

An Unexpected Twist

However, the unforeseen factor, the poison pill, has taken on a very unexpected face.  Once again, Nikki Haley is quite unpopular in South Carolina nowadays.  Tea party groups in South Carolina feel betrayed:

Immediately after Haley announced her support Friday morning on “Fox and Friends,” her Facebook page lit up with accusations that the first-term governor was selling out her principles. Rush Limbaugh followed with a blistering broadside against her on his radio show Friday, leading a charge of conservatives nationally, in addition to locally, who accused her of selling out.

Tea party leaders in the state suggested that Haley will pay for Friday’s move with a primary in 2014 – provided she doesn’t win herself a spot on the ticket or another post in a Romney administration, as tea partiers and Republican operatives say must be the explanation for the decision.

“The overwhelming sense that I get from talking to people is deep betrayal,” said Karen Martin, the founder and organizer of the Spartanburg tea party, who has not endorsed a candidate. “She’s not going to be able to come back from this with the tea party. If there’s anybody credible who will run against her, I believe the tea party will support them whole-heartedly.”

Martin predicted that Haley will face trouble even before then in trying to push through a governing agenda that’s already put her at odds with her former colleagues in the GOP-controlled legislature.

“She’s just lost her credibility,” she said. “Anything that she tries to propose, most people in the past might not have looked too carefully at her, believing that she is a credible conservative. We’ve given her a pass on a few things, but that won’t happen any more.”

Limbaugh mocked the Haley endorsement, saying that it was more about her ambition than about conservative principles.

That last sentence uttered by Rush Limbaugh could have a point.  The Tea Party is strongly hinting at a primary challenge to Nikki Haley in 2014.  Her endorsement could have secondary motives given her unpopularity.  The voters, particularly conservatives, both Tea Party and non-Tea Party could deliver payback in a much more immediate way.  If a viable not-Romney conservative candidate wins Iowa, those voters could deliver a blistering rebuke of Haley by voting for that not-Romney candidate and likely end any covert ambitions she may have had of advancing up the political national ladder with the Republican establishment.  One thing I get from this is quite certain.  The Tea Party is going to do everything in their power to derail Mitt Romney from getting the nomination.  If they do this, Mitt Romney will be up against the wall momentum wise and be in a must-win situation when winner-takes-all Florida comes up soon after that.

Some of you from South Carolina are going to have to enlighten me on why the relationship between Nikki Haley and a GOP controlled legislature isn’t exactly cordial nowadays.  Why has Nikki Haley become so toxic?  I don’t know.  One thing is clear.  The Tea Party in South Carolina may make Nikki Haley look like a sacrificial pawn that yielded no benefit for the Romney campaign before all is said and done.

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