We’ve been known to offer some exaggerated prose from time to time, but the headlines last week harkening “A New Era” for South Carolina defy logic and a real sense of Gov.-elect Nikki Haley’s platform. In her acceptance speech, Haley seemed to share the game-changing theme. “We’re turning a page on where we’ve been,” she said.

She was likely referring to her significance as an Indian-American woman, but she could have just as easily been referencing the affair claims, tax questions, and suspicious contracts that dulled the luster of her success. “The history will be in where we go.”

Haley has promised a change in tone, and that’s one we can take to the bank. Voters can expect that their new state leaders will face their embarrassing personal crises and professional scandals quietly, instead of holding painful press conferences filled with awkward, tearful admissions and apologies to all the true believers out there. Yes, in that sense, where we are going will certainly be far different from where we’ve been.

The Double-Back Era

We’ll leave the intimate revelations about Haley for Will Folks’ forthcoming memoir — which will likely come out around the time vice presidential rumors begin swirling for Nikki — and instead focus on policy, otherwise known as the details Haley dodged or evaded during all of those snoozy debates.

During her campaign, Haley called for “reforms” in a very general sense, and there’s a good reason for that. After a tough beating on the campaign trail for undisclosed income and state spending for pet projects back home, it’ll be hard for Haley to take the lead on transparency and spending reforms in the legislature.

On election night, her first “Thank You” went to Gov. Mark Sanford for his fiscal leadership. The governor confounded the legislature for about seven years, objecting to commonsense initiatives like raising the cigarette tax and taking South Carolina’s share of federal stimulus dollars.

Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley) told The State last week that the prospects are better for cooperation with Haley because of her experience in the General Assembly, but he said he’s been here before with Sanford.

“He went out of his way to say, ‘I’m going to work with you to get some stuff done,'” Grooms said. “The honeymoon was short-lived.”

The fear is that Haley’s reform message is limited to the last 18 months — that she’ll go back to a time when Sanford was the obstructionist darling of the national conservative Tea Party movement for his principled stand against wasteful spending. A time when Sanford wrote a personal letter on his website asking his friends and supporters to consider the newly launched campaign of then-Rep. Haley, an equally principled conservative who would carry the torch beyond Sanford’s two-term limit. Days later, Sanford would wind up on the coast of Argentina with his mistress. It was a clandestine trip that brought national attention to Sanford’s intense dedication to his role as South Carolina’s ambassador and unofficial poet laureate.

After Sanford’s fall, this ambitious, principled governor was left broken. In the wake of the scandal, the state secured big-ticket economic wins, like Boeing’s new Dreamliner facility, using the kind of incentives Sanford would have scoffed at just a year earlier. And, at long last, the state increased the cigarette tax, forcing some smokers to pick between another pack or a hard-earned tip for Candy or Destiny.

We’re certain to see a rebirth of the kind of obstructionism that would keep federal aid out of South Carolina, particularly for pressing needs like dredging the Charleston Harbor and bringing an interstate to Myrtle Beach. In a broader sense, this philosophy could doom efforts toward transportation improvements like high-speed rail and aid from Washington for Medicaid costs.

The (Health)Careless Era

South Carolina voters last week told those nagging pollsters that the economy was their top priority. But when they said economy, what they meant was healthcare, according to their newly elected leaders. Haley, Attorney General-elect Alan Wilson, and Congressman-elect Tim Scott all relentlessly pushed their challenge to “Obamacare.” Scott will be taking the fight to Washington in the new GOP-led House, while Wilson carries on the state’s lawsuit against federal reform and Haley uses her desk to rail against mandated coverage.

Exit pollsters asked whether voters supported or opposed healthcare reform, and the results came in roughly split. What they failed to ask was whether those voters truly cared one way or the other. Ask me if the coed on Vampire Diaries should get with the blond or the brunet and I’ll tell you the brunet. That said, I frankly don’t care.

Democrats made the same folly. They accepted a mandate to turn the economy around and instead spent the last two years wrangling over how much to pay McDreamy and the mythical roots of death panels. If that wasn’t bad enough, now we’ll have Republicans calling for a blanket repeal. That means abandoning heartstring-tugging reforms like insurance options for children and adults with pre-existing conditions, expanded coverage for young people on their parents’ policies, checks for seniors struggling with Medicare drug costs, a tax credit for small businesses investing in healthier employees, low cost or free preventive screenings, and protection from insurance companies looking to limit or eliminate coverage in catastrophic cases.

The road to repeal reform is going to be a perilous one. When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) came to town recently to talk about his repeal effort, two of the five doctors drafted for a high-profile press conference refused to support Graham’s petition because it could harm their patients. That’s right, he couldn’t even find four out of five doctors to approve his message.

The Lead-By-Proximity Era

During Haley’s first debate with her Democratic opponent, Vincent Sheheen, she was asked about the state’s ongoing negotiations with North Carolina and Georgia for access to shared rivers and streams. Her response went from support for farmers (?) to a quick mention of “Obamacare” (?) and illegal immigrants (?) and back to farmers (?). Fortunately, the attorney general’s office is leading talks on the matter. But that’s not the only issue where Haley’s attention has already waned.

Early in the campaign, Haley said she’d forgo an executive budget. Sanford has often used his executive budget as a political stunt to argue for his fiscally conservative credentials, but it’s always been a hollow gesture ignored or mocked by legislators as they do what they want. Sanford was quick to publicly suggest Haley reconsider and, indeed, she changed course. But the message had already been sent: the legislature would be doing the real work on any issues that didn’t fall in Haley’s personal tool belt.

Again, it’s not a knock on Haley. If Sanford can be faulted for anything, it’s asserting executive power he never really had to begin with. If Haley has her eyes open going in and recognizes that the governor’s office is a figurative soapbox that reform drives past on its way to inaction in the legislature, she’ll do just fine.

There are other issues the Statehouse is likely to get to before Haley can get her chair warm. Legislators will increase the number of on-the-record votes in the House (an issue Haley is best known for). They’ll require voters to show IDs at polling places, an effort to address the irrational fear that Democrats are smart enough and coordinated enough to steal elections. They’ll enact spending caps and budget reforms that should be easy to pass in a year when there’s absolutely no hope for extra cash. And there will be more limits to workers’ compensation and other lawsuits.

The Hot Topic Era

(no, not the T-shirt hut at the mall)

There are two issues that Haley is likely to find most appealing on her path to Fox News punditry. During the off-season, legislators have been holding town hall meetings on immigration reform. Last month, House Speaker Bobby Harrell rolled out an agenda that included an “Arizona-style” bill.

The most controversial aspect of the Arizona law requires law enforcement to check the legal status of individuals they stop or arrest. The provision requires proof of citizenship or, if an immigrant, proof they’re allowed to be in the country. Hiring an illegal immigrant is against the law in South Carolina, and the state requires employers to check the immigrant status of new hires. The Arizona law also penalizes the undocumented worker for seeking out employment. The federal government has challenged several aspects of the Arizona law. But that state has become a rallying point for conservatives, and Palmetto State legislators could very well pull the exact language and place it in their own bill.

The other issue is a broad swath of sales tax reforms proposed by the state-appointed Taxation Realignment Commission. The group wrapped up work last month, with controversial recommendations to increase the state’s gas tax, eliminate a host of sales tax exemptions, and add new taxes on groceries, utilities, and prescription drugs. In another campaign gaffe, Haley told The State that she would support taxing groceries because the exemption didn’t create any jobs. She went on to temper her comments about tax hikes, but she later brought in commission Chairman Burnet Maybank as a campaign advisor.

In the end, we’ll abandon these armchair predictions and offer the governor-elect some unsolicited advice. Historically, eras are often remembered for reforms that busted up the status quo. But, in modern history, governors aren’t remembered for reform. They’re remembered for jobs, new industry, and economic growth. It’s the difference between a Campbell and a Beasley, a Riley and a Hodges, and, God willing, a Sanford and a Haley.