COLUMBIA, SC — A 2014 rematch for the S.C. governor’s mansion between Gov. Nikki Haley and state Sen. Vincent Sheheen could be another close race.
Sheheen, a Democrat from Camden, leads 46 percent to 44 percent over the first-term Republican governor from Lexington, according to a poll by Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling. The result is inside the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.
Haley beat Sheheen by four percentage points in 2010.
Neither candidate formally has announced they will run for governor again in 2014, but that did not prevent them from making statements about the poll.
“I believe it’s less about me and more about the distrust the people of South Carolina have in our state government,” Sheheen said. “The people of South Carolina are smart enough to know they deserve better than what we have gotten.”
Political consultant Tim Pearson, who ran Haley’s 2010 campaign, said Sheheen has continued to run for office, while his client has governed. “When it comes time for us to re-enter the political ring with him, the results will be just as bad for Vince as they were last time,” he said.
The poll found Haley was well ahead of potential GOP primary challengers Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell of Charleston and State Treasurer Curtis Loftis of Lexington.
But the governor has received a pair of sub-par job-approval ratings in the past week – with 38 percentin a Winthrop University survey and 42 percent from Public Policy.
“Nikki Haley won by an underwhelming margin in 2010 given the strong year for Republicans nationally,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy, a Democratic-leaning poll. “Since then, she’s proven to be an unpopular governor, and the political climate has gotten better for Democrats. Put those things together, and she’s looking very vulnerable for 2014.”
The surveys are not fazing Haley, her office said.
“As she has long said, the polls are a sideshow,” spokesman Rob Godfrey said. “They go up and down, while she stays focused on bringing jobs to South Carolina and fixing a state government badly in need of repair.”
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham did get some good news from the Public Policy poll.
The Seneca Republican could face a GOP primary fight 2014 from rivals who don’t think he is conservative enough. But Graham received 51 percent of the vote over a generic more conservative candidate, up from 37 percent in January 2011, Public Policy found.
Graham also is ahead of potential primary rivals – former Gov. Mark Sanford and state Sen. Tom Davis, both of Beaufort, and U.S. Reps. Tim Scott of North Charleston, Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg and Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land.
Scott and Gowdy, who would pose the stiffest challenges to Graham, are finalists to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-Greenville, next month.
Graham has a 66 percent approval rating among Republicans.
In the governor’s race, Public Policy surveyed 520 S.C. voters from Friday through Sunday. In the Graham race, the firm surveyed 506 GOP primary voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.