The 2014 governor’s race started Thursday, The Buzz declares.
The first shots were fired right after Gov. Nikki Haley’s office released a letter to federal officials rejecting a state-operated health-care exchange as a burden to South Carolina, leaving the federal government to run a state exchange.
With minutes, Haley’s chief political operative, Tim Pearson, was asking reporters what state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, thought about the subject. Sheheen, who lost to Haley by 4 percentage points in 2010, widely is expected to take another crack at the Lexington Republican in 2014 – though the guv has not announced formal plans to seek a second term.
“Been awfully quiet, which is unlike him,” Pearson tweeted about Sheheen.
S.C. GOP chairman Chad Connelly climbed aboard later Thursday: “Where, exactly, does Vincent Sheheen stand on state health-care exchanges? The specter of Obamacare looms large, yet Vincent Sheheen is curiously silent. That’s not leadership – it’s hiding from tough questions.”
Throw in S.C. GOP political director Alex Stroman on Twitter, chiming in: “Can’t wait till Vince Sheheen has to run to the far left to win his primary.”
Democratic consultant Tyler Jones hit back: “Will Nikki Haley win her primary?”
For his part, Sheheen said that he does not know whether a state-operated exchange would be better than one run by the federal government. “I do find it odd that Gov. Haley wants a new federally operated and controlled program in our state.”
Watch out for those claws, kids.
With this kind of action some 700 days before voters head to the polls to choose a governor, the Buzz is grabbing some popcorn and getting ready to enjoy the show.
When Harpo met Sally
Speaking of popcorn, S.C. Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian got to enjoy some in the White House movie theater Thursday.
Harpo attended an early viewing of “Lincoln” with the movie’s director, Steven Spielberg, and stars, Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones. Oh, President Barack Obama was there, too.
The movie started at 5:30 p.m., which Harpo quipped meant he got the early-show time discount on tickets.
The Buzz figures he got a big discount, considering he helped raise at least $400,000 for Obama and the Democratic National Committee in the past two years.
After the movie – which got two thumbs up from the S.C. critics, Harpo said he asked Sally Field, who plays Mary Todd Lincoln in the film, what it was like to be in the house where her character lived.
“She told us, ‘It was my house,’ ” the Dem chief said.
A little bit of current events invaded the evening. The Palmetto power broker said he spent a few minutes talking fiscal cliff with the POTUS.
“He believes we can do a deal,” Harpo said. “But people are going to have to back off their ideologies on either side or this is not going to work.”
Richland voting woes hurt S.C. Dems?
Richland County’s election debacle has earned criticism from Republicans and Democrats. But Democrats have the most to lose should the problems persist.
Richland County is the largest Democratic bastion in the state. In a statewide election, Democrats count on counties like Richland and Charleston to offset huge Republican margins in counties like Greenville, Lexington and Horry.
But if voters in Richland County have to wait in line for up to seven hours to vote, it hurts Democrats statewide.
“Everybody is looking at the short term. Democrats should be very concerned because this has an impact statewide,” said Trav Robertson, a Democratic political consultant who ran state Sen. Vincent Sheheen’s 2010 gubernatorial race.
The Richland County legislative delegation – controlled by Democrats – has slated a hearing for Nov. 26 on the election mess.
Haley at the head of the table
Though she stayed home to pay attention to the ongoing hacking aftermath, Gov. Haley won re-election to the executive committee of the Republican Governor’s Association at the group’s annual meeting last week in Las Vegas.
Haley is going from being recruitment chair to dinner chair for the group, where she will be responsible for the association’s dinner, its largest annual fundraising event. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal held the dinner chair post before becoming chairman this year.
Former S.C. Mark Sanford was the group’s dinner chair the year before he was elected its chairman, a tenure that ended ... er, ah ... abruptly.
Graham: GOP must ‘repackage conservatism’
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, says the GOP most address its demographic problem if it hopes to win future races.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost in part because minorities and young people preferred Democrat Barack Obama by wide margins – a reminder for Republicans that fast-growing segments of the population do not agree with their ideology.
“If we’d gotten 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, Romney would have won,” Graham said.
To win minority voters, Republicans must repackage their conservatism in a way that appeals to them, Graham said. That does not mean Republicans have to walk away from their core beliefs, he added. But Republicans must seek compromises and their rhetoric must change, Graham said, citing the immigration debate, in particular.
“It’s a very emotional issue,” Graham said of immigration. “The way it’s been talked about makes it sound like we’re hostile to Hispanics, not just worried about broken borders.”
Graham supports a solution short of deportation of illegal immigrants. Instead, those immigrants would have to become proficient in English, pay taxes and a fine, and wait in turn to become citizens. Those who have committed a crime, other than illegal immigrating, would not be eligible to stay.
In exchange, U.S. borders would be shored up and new measures taken to ensure illegal immigrants don’t take jobs away from Americans.
As for growing African-American support, Graham said Republicans must stress the areas where agreement already exists, including supporting marriage as only between one man and one woman and the pro-life agenda.
“Conservatism presented in the right way will appeal to these groups. We’ve just got to package conservatism in a way that will be listened to,” he said.
Meet our numbers cruncher
Attention S.C. Commerce Department officials: please call Jeff Wilkinson.
The Commerce Department recently unveiled a study showing that the military has a $15.7 billion-a-year economic impact on South Carolina. The study took about six months to complete and officials plan to use it to pressure S.C.’s congressional delegation to agree to a deal that will avoid sequestration – a series of automatic budget cuts that would slash $600 billion from the military’s total budget.
This was not news to Wilkinson, who covers the military for The State newspaper. Wilkinson performed his own study two years ago and came up with $16 billion – a figure he has been using in his stories ever since.
How long did it take Wilkinson?
“An afternoon,” he said.
Before everyone gets all mad about wasting taxpayer money, please note the Commerce Department did not pay a consultant to do its study. (The agency did it in-house.)
Staff writers Adam Beam and Gina Smith contributed