I don't care if you live in Kansas, California or on the surface of the sun, if you aren't paying attention to South Carolina politics, you're missing a good show. I'm not talking about Mark Sanford and his extracurricular activities. I'm not even talking about Stephen Colbert wanting to run for president there.
I don't care if you live in Kansas, California or on the surface of the sun, if you aren't paying attention to South Carolina politics, you're missing a good show.
I'm not talking about Mark Sanford and his extracurricular activities. I'm not even talking about Stephen Colbert wanting to run for president there.
The jockeying for position in the race to take the governor's mansion from Sanford has produced more than its fair share of entertainment.
Not long ago, Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer made news for his stance against the welfare system when he regaled voters with the words of his grandmother, who taught him not to feed stray animals because they breed. You can't make that kind of thing up.
But now the stakes have been raised. Nikki Haley - whose full name is Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley - wasn't bothering anyone when she was running in third place with 12 percent of those polled pledging support for her.
But now that she has picked up endorsements from Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Sanford's wife, Jenny, she has vaulted to the top of the polls with support from 30 percent of respondents.
In politics, the target on your back grows proportionally with the amount of support you have.
Haley is getting a lesson about that as the June 8 primary approaches.
Her campaign website has had to add two interesting entries on the "Truth in Facts" sections most of the information is about Haley and her voting record.
But the final two entries answer the questions, "Is Nikki her real name?" and "Is Nikki a Christian?"
It is 2010, right?
I appreciate it when candidates reveal how their religious beliefs and affiliations affect their voting record. Religious beliefs are a great predictor on social policy positions. They aren't 100 percent accurate, but they are closer than other factors.
But Haley isn't being asked about what church she goes to out of general curiosity. Question No. 2 is directly related to question No. 1.
Haley has served in the South Carolina legislature for six years. She is a known quantity as a conservative legislator and leader. But supporters of her Republican opponents have used the time-honored "whisper" campaigns to cast doubt about Haley in the minds of primary voters.
Haley is the daughter of Indian immigrants. She was born and raised in Bamberg, S.C., and graduated from Clemson University. She is married to a member of the National Guard and attends Mt. Horeb Methodist Church in Lexington, S.C.
You can't get much more American than that. But her first name is Nimrata, so she is forced to answer these shady questions.
Another interesting development is the manner in which the final touches were put on legislation that she has carried for more than two years.
South Carolina still allowed "voice votes," which allowed a measure to pass or fail and constituents would never know how their legislators voted.
Haley fought to get every vote on a roll call ballot so that accountability was enforced in the state Legislature.
However, as the vote was nearing its final trip through the house, she announced on her Facebook and Twitter pages that she would be attending a meeting of the Greenville County Republican Women.
I'm sure the lieutenant governor had no idea how this happened, but the final vote on the measure was moved to a time when everyone paying attention knew she would be absent. That became a hot topic at a recent debate.
"With all due respect, if you're going to push for roll-call voting, you ought to be there to vote on it especially when you got paid that day," Bauer told Haley during the debate. "And I think there's a little air of hypocrisy."
But Haley isn't one to fall in such plainly laid traps.
"The two-and-half-year fight is the reason that the House overwhelmingly voted to have every single vote on the record," Haley replied.
State Attorney General Henry McMaster - who also once led Haley in the polls - said the bickering between Bauer and Haley made him think they were married.
McMaster is in position to join Haley in a June 22 runoff. Bauer's attacks were an attempt to save his campaign that is bringing up the rear in the four-way race.
I doubt it worked.
The fact that Haley has racked up support from top in-state and national GOP leaders and more than 90 percent of South Carolina residents polled disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing in the White House leads me to believe she will probably be the next governor of the Palmetto State.
As the Republican primary has proven, they could do a lot worse.
Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette.