Saturday, March 24, 2012

Haley begs for national attention in Pennsylvania

Two months ago, Governor Nikki Haley spent two weeks with presidential candidate Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, a state that does not appear among South Carolina's voting precincts.

Then she squired him around her own state, which may have been the kiss of death, as opponent Newt Gingrich cleaned Romney's clock in the South Carolina primary -- a primary, I might add, paid for entirely by South Carolina's taxpayers. What are the chances that precedent will be repeated?

Media noticed that Haley didn't roll out of Columbia when Romney did, that Haley got left behind to refurbish a tattered image with our state's wingnuts. Various reporters speculated that Haley had been ditched because of her rapidly rising unpopularity ratings. After all, Romney has made a quarter-billion-dollar personal fortune from cutting dead weight in the corporate world.

Now, however, comes word that Haley is stumping for her man Romney once again, now in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley tried Friday to lend conservative credibility to Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney in front of a skeptical crowd in Pennsylvania, a moderate state that nevertheless could be a challenge for Romney to win.

Haley told hundreds gathered at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, the state's largest annual gathering of conservatives, that Romney has her support because he is a Washington, D.C., outsider, tested in the private sector and committed to keeping a strong military.

But she also fielded pointed questions from the crowd that voiced suspicion over Romney's commitment to conservative positions or his independence. Haley insisted, among other things, that Romney is "absolutely pro-life, he's absolutely going to repeal" President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

"Those are the things I want to know," Haley said. "Are they going to say he's a flip-flopper? They can do that, but politics is all about hurting your opponent. You're not going to hear me say anything negative about the other candidates because I don't have to say anything negative about them to make Mitt Romney look good."

Haley endorsed Romney in December and also campaigned with him in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Romney lost the primary vote in South Carolina to Newt Gingrich and faces a tough April 24 primary vote in Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum's home state.

Haley also said that she wouldn't accept an invitation to be Romney's vice presidential candidate and that she's anxious for Republicans to wrap up the primary.

Poor Nikki Haley, so desperate for the sort of adulation that South Carolinians cannot give her, aware as we are of her numberless shortcomings. Only in far off places does she still seem new, does her ideological intransigence resemble steadfastness.

What does it say of her psyche, that she so craves to see and hear her name in print and her image broadcast nationwide, that she abandons so blithely her responsibilities to the people whose chief executive office she occupies?

Back here at home, where legislative neglect ensures that most children won't ever be able to achieve their greatest potential, and where the machines of governance that serve the purposes of our corporate elite guarantee that most working South Carolinians are doomed to shoulder the greatest economic burden for the least economic reward, Haley likely chafes.

Her novelty had an unfortunately short shelf-life, as did the high-minded principles on which she campaigned. Having no new tricks to pull from her bag, Haley likely feels like the emperor without clothes, in constant fear of being discovered a fraud. What will happen when her memoir is released in two weeks, draws cursory light and heat from her Tea Party constituency, and fades from public attention before the next full moon?

The new HBO film "Game Change," based on the book of the same name, posits that during the 2008 presidential election, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin fell so deeply in love with the idea that her overweening ambition could yield national fame and fortune, she told John McCain's campaign manager Steve Schmidt that she didn't want to go back to Alaska. Indeed, history shows that Palin resigned her office eight months after the McCain-Palin ticket lost the election. She served as governor for a grand total of two and one-half years.

Inexplicably, Haley's name is still floating around the conservative-to-libertarian end of the political spectrum as a potential running mate to Mitt Romney. Conventional wisdom and common sense suggests it's a pipe dream, but stranger things have happened; Palin herself is the greatest example of this.

If Haley doesn't want to be governor of South Carolina, that's fine, but she should level with her state, tell us so, and resign. Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell, a man of tremendous sagacity, will make a fine -- probably much finer -- governor for the remainder of the term, and Senator John Courson will make as fine a Lieutenant Governor as we need. Perhaps a restoration of experience and wisdom is what South Carolina needs.

As for what Haley needs -- escape from scrutiny and expectation, the adoration of millions for whom entertainment and novelty is paramount -- only a career at Fox News Channel can provide.

Palin was governor of Alaska for 30 months, yet before her selection as McCain's running mate, she hadn't been out of her state to support him or any other candidate's campaign.

In contrast, Haley's been governor of South Carolina for less than half that time -- 14 months so far -- and has made been as his side in New Hampshire, here in South Carolina, and now in Pennsylvania.

These facts lead to only two safe conclusions: (1) Despite her insistence that she's not begging to be Romney's vee-pee, she's begging for that AND a national spotlight.

And (2) Rick Santorum's chances of winning the Pennsylvania primary are suddenly improved.

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