Was Gov. Haley the Primary's 2nd Biggest Loser?
The results of Saturday's voting calls into question the first-term governor's influence.
The true impact of one of the wildest weeks in political history will not be felt for some time, both in terms of the Republican primary and the general election.
But one conclusion can be made with relative certainty.
And that is that Nikki Haley has almost no influence over the voters she governs.
Haley endorsed Mitt Romney in December nearly two years after he endorsed her. Haley’s popularity has fallen sharply statewide since her November 2010 election. Statewide, it was recently lower than 40 percent. And among GOP primary voters on Saturday, it was under 70 percent, according to exit polling in the Washington Post.
But her support was sought after by all the candidates.
Haley was the only politician with a national profile in South Carolina who risked publicly backing a candidate.
Neither of the U.S. senators from South Carolina, Jim DeMint nor Lindsey Graham, endorsed. Of the state’s five Republican congressmen only Mick Mulvaney did, and he supported Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
But Haley’s decision to endorse Romney has clearly backfired. And Haley might know this as well as anyone. She released a short statement on her Facebook page and told the AP that she will support the nominee regardless of who it is and that she will continue to support Romney.
For the past two weeks, Haley routinely appeared with Romney at campaign stops, including one Saturday morning at Tommy's Country Ham House in Greenville. But on Saturday, as the disappointing results started coming in, Haley was nowhere to be found.
Not only could Haley not deliver South Carolina for the candidate she backed, she also couldn't deliver her county or even her home precinct. The latter two went to Newt Gingrich.
"Nikki Haley couldn't even deliver her home county for Mitt Romney," said Tyler Jones, a Democratic strategist.
"She told Romney her endorsement would deliver South Carolina, but in reality it looks like she delivered four more years for Barack Obama. Nikki Haley is the best thing that ever happened to the South Carolina Democratic Party."
Polls have shown that Haley’s popularity is decline. But even among those with a favorable view of her, voters cast their ballot for Gingrich by a margin of 42-30 percent.
Haley’s re-election campaign won’t begin in earnest for at least another year. But there may be damage to repair first, as many members of her conservative base expressed displeasure of the Romney endorsement.