Somewhat skeptically, we recently noted the out-of-state fundraising prowess of gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. Nearly 25 cents of every dollar the GOP Statehouse representative collected for her campaign in the first quarter of 2010 came from outside of the state.
Regardless, she was still far short of the in-state fundraising might of her opponents, Congressman Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. André Bauer, and Attorney General Henry McMaster. Still trailing in the polls, one would imagine that what she really needs is supporters who also happen to be voters.
But, College of Charleston political science professor Jeri Cabot says national appeal like Haley’s shouldn’t be dismissed.
“That’s something to watch,” she says. “It can indicate momentum.”
It doesn’t hurt to have advocates in the conservative media. Erick Erickson, a CNN pundit and founder of the popular right-wing RedState.com, made an online plea to fellow conservatives days before the end of first-quarter fundraising titled, “Supporting Nikki Haley must be a priority, even if you don’t live in South Carolina.”
“Think of the real impact Bobby Jindal has had on the healthcare debate. Or Rick Perry. Or, in a negative way, Charlie Crist and the stimulus,” Erickson wrote, noting he was personally sending Haley a fatter check than he had sent to Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, the latest national conservative darling. “We have to support good candidates wherever they are.”
Faithful readers were listening. Ohio attorney Connie Carr says she’s grown frustrated with politicians who have forgotten who they are working for. Carr donates her money and volunteers her time to candidates in her home state, but she says good conservatives in Ohio need good friends in South Carolina.
“It’s not just an Ohio problem or a Washington problem,” Carr says. “You need governors in other states with a backbone who stand up for what they believe.”
Tennessee laundromat owner Carolyn Kumar says she related to Haley’s stories about her family’s small business.
“We know what that’s like,” she says. “We support her because she’s a true fiscal conservative.”
Kumar said she’d be “thrilled” to get to vote for Haley one day. Donna Weinberg, a Virginia homemaker and a self-professed “big fan of Jim DeMint” sent $25 to Haley. She’s more concerned about the present.
James Dyer, a Pennsylvania retiree on Social Security, sent Haley $10. “I miss my country,” he says. “I feel like we’re fast approaching a point of no return.”
Determined to restore a “God-centered” government that’s limited to Constitutional principles, Dyer says he heard of Haley on Tea Party sites. Other online supporters are reflective of this movement, railing against things like weapons bans and healthcare reform.
But Haley needs to offer more than shared conservative principles. When every candidate is reading from the same page in the Tea Party hymnal, she needs a voice that carries over the choir.
Cabot notes that, aside from the national advocates in Haley’s corner, she has had a tough time bringing attention to herself in the four-person race.
“She needs a stronger personal argument beyond the small government rhetoric,” Cabot says. “She has to show she’s more than a warmed-over Mark Sanford.”
Until then, South Carolina Republicans are going to hold on to their campaign cash and their votes — and time is running out.
Daily election updates through Primary Day at the Rock Bottom blog at charlestoncitypaper.com
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